Background Opioid analgesics, also known as narcotics, are medicinal drugs used primarily for the management of pain secondary to any type of cancer, severe injury or surgery. Due to the ease of availability, opioids are commonly abused. In 2015, reported deaths exceeded 33,000 Americans from opioid overdose. A survey in 2013 revealed nearly 1.6 million Pakistanis abusing prescription opioids for non-medical needs. Although commonly prescribed by primary care physicians, most of them are diffident to stand by all the recommended strategies to reduce the incidence of opioid abuse. Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted during the period of August through October 2018. A sample size of 365 was determined using a 95% confidence interval at a degree of precision of 5%. A 22-item questionnaire was given to doctors with at least two years practicing experience either from a private or a public healthcare setup. Doctors who had never prescribed opioids were excluded from the study. Out of the eligible participants, 15 refused to take part in the survey, and the co-operation rate was recorded as 95.8%. Collected data were analyzed using statistical package for social science (SPSS) version 22 for Windows. Frequencies, percentages, mean, standard deviation, and chi-square were used to explore the variables. The statistical significance level was considered at p < 0.5. Results Opioids were reported to be used mainly for treating acute pain (40.5%), chronic pain (24.7%) and both acute and chronic (34.8%). A minority of doctors (29%) screened their patients for opioid addiction. A significant association (p = 0.000) between the frequency of opioid prescription and prior screening for depression was determined. Surprisingly, only 23.2% clinicians frequently screened their patients for depression before prescribing opioids. The rate of counselling regarding drug tapering was found to be 71.6%. A majority, i.e., 88%, of the respondents anticipated the misuse of opioids they prescribe whereas 74% also held a belief that patients self-medicate their untreated pain. Participants reported addiction (54%) as the most common reason for abuse followed by the role of pharmaceutical companies (43%) and pharmacies (41%). About 80.2% clinicians believed that patients addicted to opioids could get well and return to their daily routine. Conclusion The rising opioid epidemic is a major concern for doctors prescribing opioids. Adaptation of medical school curricula and appropriate training can equip doctors for better management of patients requiring opioids. This includes the screening of patients using standard risk assessment tools for opioid abuse leading to a more controlled opioid prescription practice. Dissemination of these tools will boost doctors' confidence and may help in reducing morbidity and mortality from opioid abuse.
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