The ongoing opioid crisis in the United States is continuing to worsen as prevention strategies for opioid abuse and addiction are ineffective or improperly regulated. Behaviors of the providers, the public, and the patients must all be addressed to create effective prevention strategies because the attitude toward opioid addiction is a significant factor in the treatment of the disease. Many people view substance abuse as a choice and while this may be an accurate assumption in the beginning, citizens across America are not comprehending the full impact these substances have on a person’s body over time, specifically their brain. In recent years, medical scientists and researchers have termed addiction as a disease but there are still significant barriers for those seeking treatment for it, especially for those in rural communities. The opioid epidemic is exacerbated by a lack of compassion as well as the stigma surrounding addiction, which has clouded the judgment of our health care providers to the point that they have become desensitized while treating a patient struggling with substance abuse. There are several factors contributing to this stigma such as the understanding of addiction as a disease instead of as a willful choice, negative language surrounding substance use, confusing the symptoms of mental and/or physical health issues with symptoms of substance abuse disorders, and limited access to rehabilitation and treatment, which all affect the user’s willingness to seek health care.

Keywords: opioid epidemic, addiction, disease, stigma, treatment, compassion, health care providers, mental health

Year Manuscript Completed

Fall 2021

Senior Project Advisor

Scott M. Douglas, Ed.D.

Degree Awarded

Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree

Field of Study

Health Care Administration

Document Type