Addressing Stigma to Provide Quality Care to People Who Use Drugs

Co-authored by PISC Senior Scholar Shoshana Aronowitz, PhD, and Executive Committee member Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MA, this commentary article discusses the impact of stigma on healthcare access for people who use drugs. As the article notes, the fear and avoidance resulting from stigmas around drug use can lead to people who use drugs avoiding healthcare workers and being more hesitant to call 911 in the case of an overdose. It then goes on to discuss solutions that have been investigated by experimental studies, including visual campaigns aimed at healthcare workers and narratives featuring individuals who use drugs. Ultimately, the authors acknowledge the difficulty of destigmatization due to the association between drug use and crime, then assert that addressing such associations and implementing evidence-based interventions could make a largely beneficial impact on the US’s chronic opioid crisis.

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