Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Robert Pack

Committee Members

Nicholas Hagemeier, Katie Baker


Prescription drug abuse is a public health problem of epidemic proportions in the United States. Provider-patient communication underpins many initiatives aimed at preventing and reducing the public health burden of prescription drug abuse. The characteristics of and factors contributing to this interpersonal process, however, have not been fully explored.

The purpose of this research was to examine: 1) the overall problem of prescription drug abuse and provider-patient communication about prescription drug abuse from the patient perspective; and 2) provider-patient communication about prescription drug abuse from the prescriber perspective. In 2014-2015, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 patients from primary care and addiction medicine and 10 prescribers from multiple health professions and medical fields in Central and South Central Appalachia. The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis, facilitated by qualitative data analysis software, was used to generate themes.

Patients perceived prescription drug abuse as a problem, both in terms of its prevalence and contribution to negative consequences. Patients connected abuse to accessibility, identifying routes of access, routine practices, and rationales involved in the acquisition and distribution of prescription drugs for abuse. With regard to provider-patient communication, patients reported different levels of engagement in prescription drug abuse-related communication with healthcare providers—active, passive, and no/limited. Prescribers likewise reported different patterns of prescription drug abuse-related communication with patients—informative, counteractive, and supportive. Collectively, patients and prescribers described a range of factors—personal and environmental—that positively and negatively influence provider-patient communication and, by association, prescriber delivery and patient receipt of healthcare related to prescription drug abuse. When comparing the perspectives of patients and prescribers, multiple similarities in their prescription drug abuse-related communication perceptions and behaviors were identified.

The findings of this research have implications for: 1) clinical practice to mitigate prescription drug abuse and improve patient prescription drug abuse-related communication behaviors; 2) patient- and prescriber-targeted interventions to improve provider-patient communication about prescription drug abuse; and 3) future research to continue to advance understanding of provider-patient communication about prescription drug abuse.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Public Health Commons