Author: Courtney Flank, B.S.
Despite overwhelming evidence-based research indicating that medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are effective at treating opioid use disorder, objections to medication assisted treatment (MAT) are still common. Listed below are some actions you can take today to decrease the stigma related to MAT:
1.) Understand that MAT is an evidence-based treatment for addiction.
a. MAT works well compared to other treatments. A long-term study following up on patients receiving MAT showed that after 18 months of treatment, less than 20% of patients were dependent on pain relievers, and after 48 months this dropped to less than 10% of patients.
b. MAT reduced overdose deaths. A study of 17,568 adults prescribed MAT showed that opioid overdose deaths decreased by 59% for those using Methadone and 38% for those prescribed buprenorphine.
2.) Try changing stigmatizing language.
a. Abuser/addict -> person with a substance use disorder (SUD)
b. Clean/dirty -> Substance free/actively using substances
c. Reformed addict -> person in recovery
d. Opioid replacement -> Medication-assisted treatment
3.) Seek to understand the person with a substance use disorder.
a. Consider using positive reinforcement strategies instead of shaming or blaming
b. Remember that recovery is a journey, not a state of being
4.) Learn more about MAT and recovery by visiting the following websites:
a. The American Psychological Association (APA): http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/opioid-abuse.aspx
b. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db294.htm
c. Mental Health America (MHA) Screenings: https://screening.mentalhealthamerica.net/screening-tools/
d. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): http://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Taking-Care-of-Your-Body/Drugs,-Alcohol-Smoking
University, U. S. (2021, March 26). Reducing stigma toward medication-assisted treatment. USU. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://extension.usu.edu/heart/research/reducingstigma