UAMS Researchers Awarded $538,781 Grant to Study Opioid Prescribing and Dispensing

By Ben Boulden

Opioids are medications that relieve pain and include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine.

Leading the team are principal investigator Geoff Curran, Ph.D., director of the UAMS Center for Implementation Research and a professor in the UAMS College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice and College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, and co-investigator Bradley Martin, Pharm.D., Ph.D., a professor in the College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice and Division Head of Pharmaceutical Evaluation and Policy.

“We are trying to fill knowledge gaps about how people make decisions regarding prescribing and dispensing opioids and the processes they follow to help them make those decisions,” Curran said.

“The crux of what we are studying is the evaluation of legitimate pain management versus the misuse and abuse potential,” Martin said. “It’s how primary care providers from physicians to nurse practitioners walk the line between pain management so as to not be part of a cycle of abuse and diversion.”

The multidisciplinary research team will do face-to-face interviews of 120 people — 15 pharmacists and 15 primary care providers in each of the four states of Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky and Washington. The $538,781 is included in an overall $1.32 million grant from NIDA to support the multistate study, led Mark Edlund, M.D., Ph.D., at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina.

The results of the qualitative study will be used to construct models of prescribing and dispensing behaviors that will help address the complex problems sometimes associated with opioid prescribing and dependency.

Since 1980, use of opioids to treat chronic pain has increased dramatically. That increase has paralleled increased rates of opioid-use disorders and overdose deaths. Prescription opioid use disorders are the fastest growing form of drug abuse and the most common cause of accidental drug overdose in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called it an epidemic.


UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.