The Protocol of the Application of Economics & Social Psychology to Improve Opioid Prescribing Safety trial 2 (AESOPS-2): Availability of Opioid Harm


High levels of opioid prescribing in the United States has resulted in an alarming trend in opioid-related harms. The objective of Trial 2 of the Application of Economics & Social psychology to improve Opioid Prescribing Safety (AESOPS-2) is to dampen the intensity and frequency of opioid prescribing in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to “go low and slow”. We aim to accomplish this by notifying clinicians of harmful patient outcomes, which we expect to increase the mental availability of risks associated with opioid use.


The trial is multi-site. Random assignment determines if prescribers to persons who suffer an opioid overdose (fatal or nonfatal) learn of this event (intervention) or practice usual care (control). Clinicians in the intervention group receive a letter notifying them of their patient’s overdose. The primary outcome is the change in clinician weekly milligram morphine equivalent (MME) prescribed in a 6-month period before and after receiving the letter. Additional outcomes are the change in the proportion of patients prescribed at least 50 daily MME and in the proportion of patients referred to medication assisted treatment. Group differences in these outcomes will be compared using an intent-to-treat difference-in-differences framework with a mixed-effects regression model to estimate clinician MME.


The AESOPS-2 trial will provide new knowledge about whether increasing prescribers’ awareness of patients’ opioid-related overdoses leads to a reduction in opioid prescribing. Additionally, this trial may better inform how to reduce opioid use disorder and opioid overdoses by lowering population exposure to these drugs.

The full study is available in Contemporary Clinical Trials.