A Primer on the Opioid Morbidity and Mortality Crisis: What Every Prescriber Should Know

By Barry D. Dickinson, PhD
Director, Science, Medicine & Public Health, AMA

Module Description: This e-learning module incorporates animation, infographics, and storytelling to raise physician awareness about prescription opioid-related morbidity and mortality, factors influencing opioid-related harm, and what steps can be taken to promote the safe use of this important class of medications. Topics include the burden of chronic pain in the United States, trends in opioid prescribing and opioid-related harms that have developed over the past 20 years, factors influencing the development of the “opioid epidemic,” and risk factors for unintentional overdose and development of opioid use disorder. In addition, some attention is devoted to the intersection of prescription opioid misuse with the resurgence in heroin use and addiction, and how the clinical practice environment for pain management and opioid prescribing has been influenced by the public and private sector. Finally, recommendations for promoting safe opioid use in different patient populations are offered. Funding for developing this module was made possible in part) by the Provider’s Clinical Support System for Opioid Therapies (grant no. 5H79TI025595) from SAMHSA. The views expressed in this module do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Should you have technical questions, please contact the AMA Unified Service Center at 800-621-8335. Should you have questions regarding the content, please contact Barry Dickinson at [email protected].

Educational Objectives:

  1. Summarize opioid prescription trends over the past two decades.
  2. Describe patient risk factors for opioid misuse and/or the likelihood of developing an opioid use disorder or addiction.
  3. Distinguish the variables that increase the risk for patients to experience an unintentional overdose from prescription opioids.
  4. Summarize the association between opioid misuse and heroin use or addiction.
  5. Summarize areas of agreement and disagreement among various recent practice guidelines intended to promote safe opioid prescribing.
  6. Review the basic approaches and actions to reduce opioid-related harm in patients with acute or chronic pain.

Accreditation and Designation: The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The American Medical Association designates this enduring material for a maximum of .75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

System Requirements: 
Screen resolution of 1280 x720
Web browsers: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, IE – preferably Chrome
Browser Plug-in: Adobe Flash Player