A qualitative analysis of family involvement in prescribed opioid medication monitoring among individuals who have experienced opioid overdoses

Scott P. Stumbo, Bobbi Jo H Yarborough, Shannon L. Janoff, Micah T. Yarborough, Dennis McCarty, Carla A. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Background: Little is known about the role, extent, or effects of family member involvement in monitoring and managing opioid analgesics. Knowing when or how family members monitor prescribed opioid medication taking, whether it is acceptable to patients, or how family relationships may be affected by monitoring, are not well documented. Methods: The study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, an integrated health plan in Oregon and Washington. Semistructured in-depth interviews (N = 87) assessed circumstances surrounding overdose events among individuals who either experienced an opioid-related overdose or were family members of patients who died as a result of such an overdose. A subset of participants (n = 20) described family members' roles in monitoring opioid medications before or after overdoses. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using Atlas.ti. We used a modified grounded theory approach to categorize emergent data and to identify common themes. Results: When family members played roles in monitoring and managing opioid medications, clinicians were often unaware of their involvement. Patients and family members reported better outcomes when the patient, caregiver, and clinician developed a shared treatment plan. Negative outcomes included relationship stress, particularly when patients and caregivers had differing perspectives about what constituted effective pain management versus misuse and abuse. Conclusions: When families are concerned about opioid medications, coordination between clinicians, patients, and family carers appears to clarify roles and foster better outcomes. Increased stress and worse outcomes were reported when clinicians were not actively involved and when they did not attend to carers' concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-103
Number of pages8
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2016



  • Caregivers
  • medication adherence
  • opioid overdose
  • prescription opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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