Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105


The high rate of adverse events, including overdose, resulting from opioid pain medication use threatens the quality and safety of pain care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and elsewhere and is a critical public health problem in the United States. Pain is a highly common condition among VHA patients, and opioid therapy constitutes a primary mode of pain treatment. This study seeks to address this issue by conducting a randomized controlled trial of a brief conversation to improve opioid safety among Veteran patients receiving long-term opioid therapy. Veterans receiving opioid therapy for pain in primary care will be recruited and randomized to receive either a single session motivational intervention focused on safe opioid use or an equal attention control condition. The primary hypothesis is that the motivational intervention will improve opioid safety, decrease risk behaviors, aberrant opioid use, and total quantities of opioids prescribed relative to the control condition. Study findings will inform efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of Veteran patients with pain.

Study summary:

Adverse outcomes, including overdose, related to opioid use have increased and represent a significant threat to the safety and quality of VHA pain care as well as a national public health concern. Efforts are underway to change opioid prescribing behavior, but concurrent strategies are needed to address patient behaviors that decrease opioid safety and thus increase opioid overdose risk. Overdoses result from a range of behaviors, including taking more than prescribed, using multiple substances with synergistic effects, and injecting/snorting crushed pills to get high. Factors such as having a mental health condition have been found to increase risk of overdose among Veterans receiving opioids for pain. Given the range of risk behaviors and relevant patient factors, tailored opioid risk reduction strategies are urgently needed. Motivational enhancement (ME) is an evidence-based strategy that uses tailoring to enact behavior change through improving self-efficacy and motivation. Recent VHA initiatives to increase behavioral health providers in primary care, such as Primary Care-Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI), provide a clear opportunity to deliver ME interventions to the many patients treated for long-term pain in primary care. Although the impact of ME on overdose risk behavior is unknown, the use of an ME approach to improve opioid safety and reduce risk behaviors is potentially well-suited to the context of long-term opioid pain care, when total and immediate discontinuation of opioid use is often unfeasible. The proposed Prescription Opioid Safety Trial (POST) study will be a randomized controlled trial of a brief, tailored ME conversation that incorporates cognitive behavioral strategies to increase pain coping and is aimed at improving patients' opioid safety. The study will recruit 450 patients from primary care clinics at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Patients with long-term opioid use, defined as treatment for at least 84 days covered within the last 90 days, who are prescribed opioid doses of 20 morphine-equivalent mg/day or greater (an indicator of overdose risk) will be screened and recruited into the study. Participants will then be randomized to either the intervention (n = 225) or an enhanced usual care (EUC) condition (n = 225). Pharmacy records and patient self-report will be assessed at baseline and 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups to measure key outcomes. The specific aims are: Aim 1) to examine if patients randomly assigned to a brief opioid safety intervention report reduced overdose risk behaviors (e.g., higher dose, concurrent alcohol use, concurrent other drug/medication use, returning to normal dose after breaks in use) over one year of follow-up compared to patients assigned to equal attention EUC. Aim 2) to examine if patients randomly assigned to a brief opioid safety intervention have lower total quantities of opioids prescribed (from pharmacy fill records) and aberrant opioid use (e.g., using for reasons other than pain, obtaining opioids from someone other than primary provider) over one year of follow-up compared to patients assigned to equal attention EUC. The study has two secondary aims: 1) to examine if patients randomly assigned to the brief intervention have fewer non-fatal overdoses and other medication-related adverse events (emergency department visits, over-sedation, injuries), better functioning, and more often store and dispose of opioids safely compared to patients assigned to EUC; and 2) to examine mediators (motivation and self-efficacy) and moderators (OIF/OEF/OND status, baseline mental health) of intervention effects.


Inclusion Criteria: - Patient at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center receiving treatment in a primary care clinic - Currently prescribed 20 morphine-equivalent mg (MEM) per day or more of an opioid - Received opioid therapy for at least 90 days - 18 years of age or older Exclusion Criteria: - Plans to stop opioids or reduce dose to below 20 MEM/day in the next 6 months - Use of fentanyl, due to the difficulty in determining morphine equivalency - A terminal cancer diagnosis - Acute suicidality requiring immediate treatment - Moderately severe cognitive impairment - Inability to give informed consent



Primary Contact:

Principal Investigator
Amy S Bohnert, PhD MHS BA
VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor, MI

Amy S Bohnert, PhD MHS BA

Backup Contact:

Laura C Thomas, BA MPH MSW
Phone: (734) 615-4223

Location Contact:

Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105
United States

Amy S Bohnert, PhD MHS BA

Site Status: Recruiting

Data Source:

Date Processed: March 16, 2018

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