More robust stigma-reduction interventions are needed for primary care clinicians to improve treatment for people with opioid use disorder.
With the recent rise in opioid-related deaths, increasing the availability and uptake of treatment options, including medications for opioid use disorder (OUD/MOUDs), is vital. However, there is only a small percentage of patients who receive MOUDs. Offering MOUD in primary care settings could greatly increase the availability of treatment, but due to stigma held by primary care clinicians (PCCs) toward people with OUD, treatment can often be inaccessible in this setting. The authors of this randomized controlled trial examined the impacts of an intervention designed to reduce stigma held by primary care clinicians (PCCs) toward people with OUD.
Participants in this trial were randomized to receive either the stigma reduction training (intervention) or an attention-control training via an online platform. The primary outcomes measured by the authors were: PCC stigma, PCC MOUD prescribing intentions (to get waivered to prescribe buprenorphine and to prescribe buprenorphine should a waiver no longer be required), and use of a clinical decision support tool. The authors reported no significant differences in any of these measures between the intervention and control groups. Findings showed PCCs who reported greater stigma toward people with OUD had lower intentions to become eligible to prescribe buprenorphine and lower willingness to work with patients with OUD.
Given the impact stigma can have on PCC’s willingness to treat people with OUD, exploring more effective stigma reduction interventions is critical for future research efforts. Future interventions should be more comprehensive and consider including educational and skill-based components that focus on the effects of stigma on the patient and how to combat personal biases.