A survey of primary care doctors nationwide finds almost half say they are less likely to prescribe narcotic painkillers compared with a year ago.
Ninety percent of those surveyed say they are concerned about prescription drug abuse in their communities.
The survey of 580 family doctors, internists and general practitioners found 85 percent believe narcotic painkillers are overused in clinical practice, HealthDay reports.
About half said they were very concerned about risks associated with overuse of painkillers, such as addiction, death and traffic crashes. Many also reported they believe that adverse events, such as tolerance (62 percent) and physical dependence (56 percent) occur often, even when the medications are used as directed for chronic pain.
Despite doctors' high level of concern about opioid painkillers, 88 percent expressed confidence in their own ability to prescribe the drugs appropriately, the researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.
"Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their over-reliance on these medicines," study leader Dr. G. Caleb Alexander of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a news release. "The health care community has long been part of the problem, and now they appear to be part of the solution to this complex epidemic."
Alexander said he hopes more doctors and patients consider using non-opioid treatments for pain, including other types of pain relievers, and non-drug treatments such as massage, physical therapy and acupuncture.