Shifting Clinic Culture to Address the Opioid Epidemic

A five-year case study changes old clinic attitudes and systems for treating chronic pain and opioid use disorder
Clinic worker with clipboard talks with patient
Changes at the clinic included using staff meetings to share patient stories and promote a culture that destigmatizes addiction. Photo: Shutterstock

For the 20 percent of Americans who suffer from chronic pain, prescription opioids may bring relief, but also risks. An estimated 21 to 29 percent of patients who receive chronic opioid treatment will misuse their medications, and 8 to 12 percent will develop an opioid use disorder.

Tufts researchers believe that changing the way clinics and their staff approach opioids—upending old attitudes and systems—could improve those statistics. At a family medicine clinic in the Boston area, a team led by faculty from Tufts University School of Medicine conducted a five-year case study where they found medical facilities can help physicians to treat chronic pain in a way that will deter opioid misuse, while creating better processes to identify and treat patients who develop an opioid use disorder (OUD).

The team explains their process in a new paper published this month in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

The study was led by family medicine faculty Randi Sokol, a pain and addiction physician and educator, and Allen Shaughnessy, a clinical pharmacist and educator who conducts research on evidence-based medicine and clinical decision-making. Both practice and teach family medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, an affiliate of Tufts School of Medicine.

Read More


Family Medicine