Opioid analgesics help alleviate the symptoms of patients with chronic pain, but they also are vulnerable to abuse. About 14,000 people die annually from opioid overdoses, and the medicines are implicated in more than 300,000 emergency department visits each year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To reduce the overdose risk, pain specialists advise that doctors prescribing opioids to patients with chronic pain monitor them closely to ensure that they do not misuse the drugs, especially if the patients have a history of substance abuse. But a study shows that some primary care doctors are not aggressive in pursuing monitoring strategies that could help prevent misuse and diversion.
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