Previous studies have shown that people who perceive higher stigma from substance use disorders are less likely to seek out treatment programs. The underlying cause of this issue, as with most, is multifaceted. However, an obstacle we are encountering in rural communities especially is a stigma related to opioid treatment. This study aims to identify those stigma-related barriers to best address this population.
A survey based on Corrigan’s Self-Stigma of Mental Illness Scale was used. The Brief Opioid Stigma Scale was adapted to focus more on the nuance of stigmatic language versus traditional terminology. The recipients of this questionnaire will be patients, community members, and non-prescribing healthcare workers. The purpose is to gauge the stigma associated with the use of certain words currently associated with opioid use disorder. A similar questionnaire in equal numbers of distribution with regards variation to will be given to each subset of participants to get a comprehensive opinion of how different populations view the terminology associated with opioid use disorders. The survey will be disseminated through the Redcap digital survey software.
Based on previous studies patients, social workers, and community members surveyed were more likely to view terms such as “addict” negatively as opposed to “use-disorder”. However, finding community members, healthcare workers, and patients in Price and Emery Counties in Utah to be surveyed was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, this study and associated survey were supposed to be disseminated to attendees of AHEC events. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all events were initially canceled. This would have reached community members, patients, and healthcare practitioners in attendance with some connection to Price and Emery Counties. Additionally, the relationship between AHEC and affiliated clinics was stressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the liaison between AHEC and healthcare facilities in Price and Emery postponed the distribution of the study. The result was no participation in the intended survey.
It was expected that patients, healthcare workers, and community members would have been more likely to respond with favorable responses to less negatively connotated language with regards to opioid use disorder. They would have also given insight into other barriers that can be addressed to better suit the rural communities AHEC serves. These findings would have been in line with previous studies that have shown that patients are less likely to seek opioid-use treatment when certain language is used. These assumptions can be made based on previous data but cannot be confidently and accurately applied to these specific Utah counties in need.