Combatting the Stigma of Addiction - The Need for a Comprehensive Health System Approach

The opioid epidemic is raging within the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 40 states reporting increases in opioid-related overdoses and deaths. COVID-19 has disrupted health care services, disproportionately affecting already marginalized populations. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs), particularly persons of color, faced significant barriers to care, largely due to the prevalence of systemic issues like stigma. Stigma is a pervasive force alienating those who experience addiction from medical care and recovery support. The added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health system has sharply exposed these barriers, separating patients with addiction from their care teams and in-person recovery groups. Pre-COVID-19, only 10 percent of those with SUDs received treatment, contributing to the 70,000 annual deaths from drug overdose, of which more than two-thirds are opioid-related. In the current context, the opioid crisis is being acutely aggravated. The pandemic has exacerbated the weaknesses of an already fragile system—a system rife with both individual and structural stigma against patients and medications for treatment—that many individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD) found difficult to enter and navigate. The need to address stigma has never been more pressing.

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CHIME Opioid Action Center

710 Avis Drive, Suite 200
Ann Arbor, MI 48108


Phone: 1.734.665.0000


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