Prescribing for self, family, friends and colleagues could be quite high, suggests a new study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, with the authors calling for greater education on the risks of the practice.
As part of the study, 729 doctors in Ireland who were members of a closed Facebook group for young doctors completed a 16-item questionnaire, which asked respondents about their prescribing habits.
The majority of respondents were non-consultant hospital doctors: interns (21%), senior house officers (40%), registrars (17%) or senior/specialist registrars (13%). A small number were qualified GPs (6%) and consultants (3%).
Over 70 per cent of those surveyed had prescribed to family, and nearly 60 per cent had prescribed to a friend or colleague. GPs, paediatricians and hospital medicine specialties were more likely to prescribe to family, and surgeons were more likely to prescribe to friends.
GPs and paediatricians were more likely to self-prescribe in general. Male doctors, anaesthetists and surgeons were more likely to self-prescribe opioids while those in hospital medicine were more likely to self-prescribe psychotropic medications.
The authors suggested further education is needed to protect doctors from the risks posed by this practice and say this should be included at undergraduate and postgraduate level as well in continued professional development.