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RICHMOND, Va. — Misperceptions and stereotypes about opioid dependence that may affect how it's treated have persisted among the general public and physicians, despite increased attention devoted to the issue, according to a new survey.
Drug maker Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, which makes Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual film for treating patients with opioid addiction, commissioned Harris Interactive to poll more than 1,000 adults ages 26 years to 49 years and 200 doctors who have not been certified under the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000, finding that 47% of adults surveyed had a personal connection with addiction, while 12% had struggled with addiction.
According to the survey, 68% of adults and 87% of doctors agree that opioid dependence affects millions of Americans, and nearly all the doctors showed awareness that misuse and abuse of opioid painkillers put a significant burden on the healthcare system. But while 88% of doctors recognize addiction as a disease, 59% of adults said the same, and 45% of adults and 30% of doctors say opioid dependence is less of a psychological problem than a physical illness.
Stigmatization of opioid dependence may be hindering efforts to treat it, according to the study. More than three-quarters of adults and 93% of doctors mentioned shame and embarrassment, fear of discovery by others and fear of putting lives on hold as reasons why those with addiction might refrain from seeking treatment. But while opioid dependence affects people of all ages, genders, races and classes, 66% of doctors say low education make it more likely, while 57% said the same of low income. Only 27% of doctors believe any doctor can prescribe medication to treat someone with opioid dependence, and 31% of those who had not received DATA 2000 certification said they didn't need it to treat opioid-dependent patients, while 7% said they preferred not to treat patients who have it, citing a difficult-to-treat patient population, large amounts of paper work and fears that their practices will be viewed as addiction-treatment centers.
"The stigma that unjustly exists towards those who suffer from opioid dependence could negatively impact or even prevent people from receiving the care they need," Yale University medical professor and American Society of Addiction Medicine fellow Mark Kraus said. "What is eye-opening about the survey is the realization that the treatment community has contributed to perpetuating it; there is a desperate need for doctors who are willing to treat opioid dependence as they would other chronic diseases."
Meanwhile, 56% of adults and 69% of doctors see relapse as inevitable, while only 35% of adults and 21% of doctors say staying at a rehabilitation clinic is effective, even though 67% of adults and 65% of doctors say opioid dependence can be cured, while 92% of adults and 98% of doctors say it's treatable. Fifty-eight percent of adults and 73% of doctors strongly support the use of medication to treat opioid dependence, but only 44% of adults are aware that prescription drugs are a treatment option.