Study: Patients are Still Confused About Pain Meds

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

If you have a question regarding medications, your first thought might be to talk with a doctor or licensed medical professional. This is especially true if you’re being prescribed powerful prescription opioids with a high potential for addiction.

While doctors are the ones writing and handing out the prescriptions, a new study shows they aren’t dispensing enough valuable patient information to accompany these dangerous medications.

A Blind Medication Regimen

woman thinking about her medication Published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the findings of this study came from a research project conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The scientists conducted telephone interviews with 23 patients, all between the ages of 18 and 65. Each participant had previously visited and been discharged from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s emergency department during a four-month period in 2014. Each patient was seen for various issues that were related to pain and chronic pain management.

Researchers found that, while the patients believed taking an opioid as prescribed would prevent the possibility of developing an addiction, they weren’t getting this information from healthcare providers. Instead, they were gathering data from friends or even television programs.

Lack of Communication

The patients also reported that they desired better communication about the cause of their pain, more engagement in the decisions regarding their treatment and a higher level of empathy from provides.

Patients realize that emergency departments are busy places, but that doesn’t reduce their desire to have meaningful interactions with their care providers.-Zachary F. Meisel
“Patients realize that emergency departments are busy places, but that doesn’t reduce their desire to have meaningful interactions with their care providers,” said senior author Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor and attending physician in the department of Emergency Medicine.

“Patients want to be given information in a straight-forward way and then listened to, so that they leave feeling like they know what was causing their pain, what their pain management options were, and that their treatment preferences were heard.”

Knowledge and Sobriety

Meisel and his colleagues aren’t sitting on this information; they’re taking action by using their findings to develop short video narratives that feature patients and their pain-related stories in the emergency department.

They hope the videos will eventually be used to help patients better understand the risks associated with misuse of opioids and what their alternative pain management options are. Knowing more always helps people make better informed decisions, but this is especially critical when it comes to pain management and opioid abuse.

Patients must be aware of a full range of options before they can feel comfortable with their decisions and understand how to best take care of themselves. With reports showing that prescription drug abuse is the fastest rising problem in the U.S., healthcare providers have both a moral and ethical obligation to disclose all available pain management options with patients.

Additional Reading: Substance Abuse and the Impact on the Family System

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