Physicians fear they missed cases of drug misuse during COVID-19 pandemic

Nov. 16, 2021

A new Quest Diagnostics report found that nearly 70% of physicians fear they missed signs of drug misuse in their patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And given how the global health crisis disrupted medical care, they anticipate rising overdose deaths — especially those involving prescribed and non-prescribed (illicit) fentanyl — even as the pandemic subsides, according to a news release.

By combining an analysis of nearly 5 million de-identified aggregated Quest Diagnostics test results, including over 475,000 from 2020 alone, with a survey from the Harris Poll of more than 500 primary care physicians, the study provides a snapshot of prescription and illicit drug misuse in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the study’s other key findings:

  • 88% of physicians report feeling confident they can identify patients at risk for drug use and misuse, yet Quest Diagnostics laboratory data reveals 48% of patients tested in 2020 showed signs of drug misuse, signaling a disconnect between physician’s perceptions and those actually misusing drugs.
  • Nearly 80% of physicians fear patients will turn to illicit fentanyl if they cannot get a prescription medication and 86% worry illicit fentanyl will claim more lives than prescribed opioids. 
  • 94% of primary care physicians report seeing more patients experiencing stress, anxiety or other mental health issues because of the pandemic. 

Visit Quest for more news

More on COVID