Opioid Use Disorder Stigma and Support for Harm Reduction in Rural Counties

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Background: The opioid crisis is a public health emergency in the United States, particularly in rural Pennsylvania. Stigma in rural communities is a treatment barrier and impacts harm reduction programming availability. Objectives: The current study utilized an observational, cross-sectional design to examine latent subgroups of stigma and differences in support for harm reduction strategies (i.e., safe injection facilities, syringe services programs, fentanyl test strips, Naloxone distribution). Participants included rural Pennsylvanians (n = 252), taken from a statewide survey of opioid use disorder (OUD) stigma. Participants reported OUD public stigma (i.e., attitudes/perceptions about OUD, willingness to engage with individuals with OUD) and support for harm reduction strategies. Results: Latent class analysis identified 4 stigma classes: 1) high stigma (HS), 2) high judgment/low stigmatizing behavior (HJ/LB), 3) high stigmatizing behavior/low stigmatizing attitude (HB/LA), and 4) low stigma (LS). ANCOVAs identified subgroup differences in harm reduction support. The HS group indicated less support for safe injection sites, syringe services programs, and fentanyl test strips, compared to the HB/LA and LS groups. The HS group indicated less support for Naloxone distribution compared to the HJ/LB, HB/LA, and LS groups. Lastly, the HJ/LB group indicated less support for each program compared to the LS group. Conclusions/Importance: Findings highlight that OUD stigma profiles differ across rural Pennsylvania and are associated with varying support for harm reduction strategies. Individuals with less stigma report more support for harm reduction strategies. Interventions to implement harm reduction strategies should consider varying levels of stigma and use a targeted approach to inform implementation and messaging strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1818-1828
Number of pages11
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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