Confronting the opioid crisis with consumer health information: a look at East Tennessee


  • Kelsey Leonard Grabeel Preston Medical Library/Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine/University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN
  • Jenny C. Moore Preston Medical Library/Health Information Center, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine/University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, TN



Consumer Health, Pain, Substance Abuse, Opioids, Medical Library, Hospital


Background: Starting in the 1990s, health care providers began prescribing opioids to patients as pain relievers, believing they were safe. However, many patients became addicted to these pills. In 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency to fight the opioid epidemic. This crisis was prevalent in East Tennessee, where many residents were prescribed opioids.

Case Presentation: Librarians at an academic medical center library in East Tennessee analyzed the health information requests related to pain, mental health, and addiction over the last fifteen years. We reviewed the pattern of requests related to these topics, the counties requesting this information, and the impact that these hospital policies had on these requests.

Conclusions: From 2005 to 2014, there were few requests about mental health, pain, and substance abuse. However, once the library moved into the hospital and there was an increase in awareness of opioid addiction, requests on those topics increased. Most of the requests were about pain, with the height occurring in 2017, during which year the public health emergency to fight the epidemic was declared. Additionally, 2017 was the year the hospital implemented visitor limitations for patients with infections associated with intravenous drug use, which might explain the drastic drop in substance abuse information requests in 2018. Future outreach will target counties that have a high opioid prescription rate.


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Case Report