A Doctor’s Fear of Prescribing Pain Meds

We trust doctors to know what to prescribe when we have pain. We are obviously used to things like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, but a doctor has to know every other type of pain medication, how it interacts with the body,  what side effects exist, and what drug interactions may void the use of the drug. When they are overwhelmed with the fear of getting it right they may be suffering from Opiophobia.

It may be slightly disconcerting to know that some doctors fear prescribing pain medications. However, you should know that pharmacists are also called upon to let customers know of any drug interactions. There is a check and balance designed to ensure quality medical care.

This is an unusual phobia in that it is specifically related to a profession and those who have this fear may be a relatively small number of doctors.

What Causes Opiophobia?

The derivative word in this fear is ‘opiate’. This term relates to narcotics, and many prescribed pain management pharmaceuticals are classified as narcotics. That is, controlled substances that have the potential of addiction.

A physician may fear that by prescribing one of these pain medications their patient could become addicted. They might fear choosing an option that does not adequately meet the need of their patient. There might be fear that the drug interacts with another medication the patient is taking. The end result is a professional who second guesses a prescription.

The cause might be linked to a past prescription that caused a patient harm. Since the physician’s Hippocratic oath indicates physicians should, “do no harm.” It can cause a sense of grief and frustration in the life of the physician. Because they may second guess what happened in that instance they may extend that guessing game to many future prescriptions for pain management.

Symptoms of Opiophobia

Physicians who struggle with this fear may find themselves leaving patients alone in the examining room while they consult with colleagues or books to try to come up with the right answer to their patient’s pain.

Other symptoms include…

  • Dread
  • Panic attack
  • Sweating
  • Increased or irregular heart beat
  • A sense that you need to flee
  • Strong feelings of failure
  • Difficulty coming to a conclusion
  • Trembling

In many cases the doctor can cover up his or her sense of panic, but many of these symptoms remain even after a prescription has been made.

How to Overcome Opiophobia

Since this is a phobia that strikes medical doctors it makes sense to allow the discovery of the issue to happen with a trusted therapist who can help guide you through whatever caused the fear to force you into a place of being double minded.

Many doctors find that by turning to medical sources for help in a determination of prescription quality and suitability they often discover great reassurance when there is a personal struggle to identify a perfect prescription.

Health care professionals are aware this can be an issue and may consult with staff doctors on a frequent basis to ensure they are not struggling with this issue as relates to patient care.

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