Knowledge and Attitude Changes Towards Opioid Use Disorder and Naloxone Use Among Medical Students

Research Mentor Name

Eva Waineo, MD; Mark Greenwald, PhD

Research Mentor Email Address

ewaineo@med.wayne.edu; mgreen@med.wayne.edu

Institution / Department

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University, School of Medicine

Document Type

Research Abstract

Research Type


Level of Research


Type of Post-Bachelor Degree



Background: Overdose is the leading cause of preventable death in the USA. There have been efforts to distribute naloxone as a tool for harm reduction to those who need it; however, negative attitudes of healthcare workers and lack of knowledge may impact distribution. Medical schools have begun training students in opioid overdose prevention and treatment; initial studies found trainings improve student knowledge in responding to overdoses, but it remains unclear whether the traditional curriculum contributes to this knowledge. The present study aimed to evaluate baseline medical student knowledge about opioids, opioid overdoses, and naloxone use.

Objective (Summary) – The present study aimed to evaluate baseline medical student knowledge about opioids, opioid overdoses, and naloxone use. As a point of focus, the study aimed to identify how people’s knowledge in areas and attitudes towards patients differed depending on their medical school training. Variables such as volunteering clinical experiences and whether students were in the pre-clinical or clinical portion of their training were noted with the aim of identifying the best way to complement the curriculum at Wayne State University School of Medicine for training professionals capable of understanding and treating a population dealing with SUDs.

Methods: We distributed 15-minute online surveys via the email lists of all 4 classes at the Wayne State University School of Medicine as part of a wider initiative on Opioid Overdose Prevention and Response Training. Student participation was voluntary and confidential. These baseline surveys included questions about past experiences and knowledge of opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdoses, clinical experiences, and attitudes towards patients with OUD. These were assessed with the validated Opioid Overdose Knowledge (OOK), Opioid Overdose Attitudes, and Medical Conditions Regard Scales (adapted for Substance Use Disorders [SUDs]).

Results: 252 students (29.0% M1, 25% M2, 21.8% M3, 24.2% M4) completed the survey. We found differences in total knowledge (OOKS) across class years (M1 44.68 ± 4.86, M2 48.05 ± 4.62, M3 47.24 ± 5.22, M4 49.37 ± 4.29; F(3,251)=11.8; pF(3,251)=4.2; p=.006). Notably, students in the final year of training scored lower on certain subscales of the Medical Conditions Regard Scale, indicating less willingness to work with patients with SUDs. We also identified interest in medication treatment and naloxone trainings should these opportunities arise.

Conclusions: The results highlight how gradual exposure to knowledge and activities concerning OUD through clinical experience improve student knowledge and overall attitudes regarding opioid overdose. Improving this knowledge-base earlier in the undergraduate medical curriculum by complementing volunteering opportunities with additional training sessions such as the buprenorphine-waiver training program or in-house naloxone training is believed to improve attitudes, knowledge, and confidence prior to starting clinical rotations. Unfortunately, results also showed more negative attitudes among students with more clinical experience (M4s) towards patients with SUDs. This indicates a need for further training during clinical years and education of best ways to respond positively when working with this patient population. These findings support a continued, integrated curriculum on OUD and naloxone in medical education with a need for an improved focus on methods to improve students’ attitudes toward patients with OUD.


Educational Methods | Medicine and Health Sciences | Substance Abuse and Addiction

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