352 Opioid & Addiction


Research by Doctor, J. N., Nguyen, A., Lev, R., Lucas, J., Knight, T., Zhao, H., & Menchine, M. (2018).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

What factors contribute to the increasing tragic deaths from opioid overdoses?  Lack of access to therapy or naloxone for revival after overdose, over-prescribing, or not educating on opioid dangers and proper use? 

Researchers examined one factor that might counter the increased high levels of opioid prescribing to those in pain. They tested the effectiveness of a personal letter from their county’s medical examiner sent to prescribing clinicians informing them about one of their patients’ death.  

In a randomized trial, they studied over 860 clinicians and 170 patients, who suffered fatal overdoses from a controlled substance. They split clinicians into two groups; one received a letter of their patients’ death and guidelines reiterating safe prescribing. The other, the control group, did not receive notification of their patient’s death nor the guidelines. Afterwards, for 3 months, the researchers recorded the number of prescriptions and deaths.  

Results? After the intervention, clinicians that received a letter, decreased the milligrams 10% in prescriptions filled and researchers observed physicians initiated fewer new opioid prescriptions.  

Keep a close personal connection to patients prescribed opioids. Encourage careful prescribing and patient cautiousness in consuming opioids, so not to overdose.  


Doctor, J. N., Nguyen, A., Lev, R., Lucas, J., Knight, T., Zhao, H., & Menchine, M. (2018). Opioid prescribing decreases after learning of a patient’s fatal overdose. Science361(6402), 588-590.  


About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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