Publication Date



opioid use disorder, patient-clinician relationship, qualitative research, health care, decision-making


Purpose: Both patients and clinicians have described discussions of potential opioid risks as challenging. This study’s goal was to understand patient perspectives on discussing opioid risks with primary care clinicians (PCCs).

Methods: Patients identified to be at elevated risk for problems with opioids (ie, opioid use disorder [OUD] diagnosis, taking a medication for OUD, or having ≥ 3 opioid prescriptions in the last year) were recruited from an integrated, Upper Midwest health system to participate in semi-structured qualitative interviews. Interview questions aimed to better understand patient views on conversations about opioid risks with PCCs and perceptions of OUD screening and treatment in primary care. Interviews were analyzed using an inductive thematic analysis approach.

Results: A total of 20 patients participated (mean age: 53.5 years; 65% male). Six themes emerged: 1) archetypes of patient relationships with opioids (long-term opioid use, acute opioid use, OUD in treatment, OUD no treatment) require different approaches in discussing opioid risks; 2) patients may develop their own archetypes about PCCs and opioids; 3) these archetypes may help guide how conversations about opioids are conducted (eg, PCC demeanor, terminology); 4) most patients believe that primary care is an appropriate setting for opioid risk discussions; 5) patients may have limited awareness of the availability and value of overdose rescue medications; and 6) handouts are more acceptable if perceived to come from the PCC’s assessment instead of a computer.

Conclusions: Results suggest that patients generally perceive discussing opioid risks with PCCs acceptable. PCCs should tailor opioid risk conversations to patients’ specific situations and needs.




January 7th, 2022


May 3rd, 2022


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