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Subst Abus. 2016 Jul-Sep;37(3):480-487. Epub 2016 Jan 28.

Internal medicine resident knowledge, attitudes, and barriers to naloxone prescription in hospital and clinic settings.

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a Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine , Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine , Baltimore , Maryland , USA.
b Division of General Internal Medicine , Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine , Baltimore , Maryland , USA.



The United States is facing an epidemic of opioid use and misuse leading to historically high rates of overdose. Community-based overdose education and naloxone distribution has effectively trained lay bystanders to recognize signs of overdose and administer naloxone for reversal. There has been a movement to encourage physicians to prescribe naloxone to all patients at risk of overdose; however, the rate of physician prescribing remains low. This study aims to describe resident knowledge of overdose risk assessment, naloxone prescribing practices, attitudes related to naloxone, and barriers to overdose prevention and naloxone prescription.


The HOPE (Hospital-based Overdose Prevention and Education) Initiative is an educational campaign to teach internal medicine residents to assess overdose risk, provide risk reduction counseling, and prescribe naloxone. As part of a needs assessment, internal medicine residents at an academic medical center in Baltimore, Maryland, were surveyed in 2015. Data were collected anonymously using Qualtrics.


Ninety-seven residents participated. Residents were overwhelmingly aware of naloxone (80%) and endorsed a willingness to prescribe (90%). Yet despite a high proportion of residents reporting patients in their panels at increased overdose risk (79%), few had prescribed naloxone (15%). Residents were willing to discuss overdose prevention strategies, although only a minority reported doing so (47%). The most common barriers to naloxone prescribing were related to knowledge gaps in how to prescribe and how to assess risk of overdose and identify candidates for naloxone (52% reporting low confidence in ability to identify patients who are at risk).


Medicine residents are aware of naloxone and willing to prescribe it to at-risk patients. Due to decreased applied knowledge and limited self-efficacy, few residents have prescribed naloxone in the past. In order to improve rates of physician prescribing, initiatives must help physicians better assess risk of overdose and improve prescribing self-efficacy.


Drug overdose; medical education; naloxone

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