Opioid Prescribing in Rural Family Practices: A Qualitative Study
Background: Rural Tennessee, especially rural East Tennessee has seen a dramatic increase in rates of controlled drug prescriptions and controlled drug overdose deaths in recent years. However, little is known about the individual decisions to prescribe or continue prescriptions with relation to addiction concerns. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to learn more about what factors lead to physicians’ prescribing control drugs for non-cancer pain through the use of focus groups. Methods: A qualitative study, using focus groups, in five family medicine clinics in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The investigators used a semi-structured interview guide designed to facilitate group discussions about prescription drug abuse and misuse. Results: There were four main themes identified by the focus groups: (1) prescribers’ changing prescribing patterns over time; (2) factors that influence controlled drug prescribing; (3) use and barriers to using state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs); (4) prescribing controlled drugs to women of childbearing age. Each theme had several subthemes. Conclusions: The balance between treating the patient's symptoms and causing potential harm is a challenge. The patient's pain cannot be ignored, but the potential harm of opioid therapy is not taken lightly. As the public health concern of prescription drug abuse in rural Appalachia continues to spread, prescribers are aware of their connection to the problem, and ultimately the solution.