Stigma in Pain Management and Opioid Use Disorder

The Research Need

Stigma against individuals with a substance use disorder, pain, or both is a common barrier to healing. Widespread lack of information and understanding about mental or substance use disorders can lead to public attitudes of shame and blame. While stigma is hard to eliminate, HEAL research is finding solutions to mitigate stigma in its many forms toward improving health and preventing unnecessary deaths from overdose.

About the Program

NIH HEAL Initiative research targets stigma that occurs at many levels affecting people with opioid use disorder or chronic pain and which can prevent people from seeking and receiving treatment. Stigma can be internalized (when an individual believes and accepts others’ judgements) or it can come from peers (others in recovery). Healthcare providers also harbor stigma against treating certain types of patients they deem different than others, and health systems can amplify all of these types of stigma by perpetuating stereotypes and their negative consequences.

Program Details

Through the NIH HEAL Initiative, NIH awarded new supplements to eight HEAL awards to address stigma, totaling $1.7 million. See funded awards.

Examples of Stigma Research

  • Developing stigma-reduction training using the Opioid Wizard clinical decision-support tool to reduce provider stigma.
  • Testing the value of mobile apps to measure and overcome stigma associated with opioid use disorder.
  • Interviewing cancer survivors and their healthcare providers to better understand sources of chronic pain stigma.
  • Evaluating psychotherapy approaches to address stigma in people with both opioid use disorder and chronic pain.

Research Spotlights

Director's Messages

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