Changing Prescribing Behavior in the United States: Moving Upstream in Opioid Prescription Education

H. Jean C. Wiese, Raven R. Piercey, Claire D. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In the US, deaths from prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, prompting authorities to declare an “opioid abuse” crisis. Rising overdose deaths were attributed to trends in the overprescription of opioids, specifically the strength and duration of the initial prescription. We describe educational interventions designed to control healthcare professionals' (HCPs) opioid prescribing in the wake of this crisis. A review of relevant programs for practicing providers, medical residents, and medical students reveals a focus on educational interventions that we describe, borrowing from sociologist John McKinlay's metaphor for public health interventions, as “downstream.” These downstream interventions concentrate on regulating and educating practicing HCPs rather than transforming the training environment for medical students and residents. We draw on theories of behavior change to call for the development of complementary “upstream” educational programs for future practitioners that focus on structural and psychosocial factors and may contribute to more sustainable behavior change outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-989
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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