Stigma Among Individuals Seeking Treatment for Opioid Abuse

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The majority of participants in the sample were receiving treatment for heroin use.
The majority of participants in the sample were receiving treatment for heroin use.

In recent research published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, self-stigma and perceived stigma were shown to be highest among people with opioid use disorders who have previously entered detoxification programs or who have recently injected drugs.1

Researchers recruited 407 individuals with opioid use disorder entering a detoxification program to participate in a 15-minute interview and answer survey questions (mean age 32.4; 72.2% men; 84.5% white). Items in the survey included sociodemographic characteristics, drug use, treatment information, an 8-item General Self-Stigma Subscale (maximum score 56), and a 3-item Treatment Stigma Subscale (maximum score 21).

The majority of participants in the sample were receiving treatment for heroin use (94.3%). In the 30 days preceding the survey, 70.5% of participants had injected drugs, and the mean number of heroin-use days was 25.4.

Participants scored a mean of 31.6 on the General Self-Stigma Subscale and 12.3 on the Treatment Stigma Subscale.

Researchers found that recent injection drug use and having previously entered detoxification programs were positively associated with General Self-Stigma scores (P =.03 and P =.02, respectively). Treatment Stigma scores, which evaluated perceived stigma, were positively associated with years of education (P =.002), having ever been prescribed naltrexone (P =.03), and having previously entered a detoxification program (P =.007).

The study authors concluded that “General Self-Stigma and Treatment Stigma Subscale scores were significantly higher among persons with a prior history of accessing detoxification care.” They suggested that this may be caused by a previous experience of discrimination from “healthcare professionals, employers, or relatives related to the admission of opioid use.”

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Reference

  1. Bozinoff N, Anderson BJ, Bailey GL, Stein MD. Correlates of stigma severity among persons seeking opioid detoxification [published online September 6, 2017]. J Addict Med. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000355
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