"A number of barriers, both social and systemic, prevent people with OUD from accessing the life-saving medications they need. Making headway against the opioid crisis will require addressing barriers related to stigma and discrimination, inadequate professional education, overly stringent regulatory and legal policies, and the fragmented systems of care delivery and financing for OUD.

"The stigmatization of people with OUD is a major barrier to treatment seeking and retention. Social stigma from the general public is largely rooted in the misconception that addiction is simply the result of moral failing or a lack of self-discipline that is worthy of blame, rather than a chronic brain disease that requires medical treatment. Evidence demonstrates that social stigma contributes to public acceptance of discriminatory measures against people with OUD and to the public’s willingness to accept more punitive and less evidence-based policies for confronting the epidemic. Patients with OUD also report stigmatizing attitudes from some professionals within and beyond the health sector, further undercutting access to evidence-based treatment. The medications, particularly the agonist medications, used to treat OUD are also stigmatized. This can manifest in providers’ unwillingness to prescribe medications due to concerns about misuse and diversion and in the public’s mistaken belief that taking medication is “just substituting one drug for another.” Importantly, the rate of diversion is lower than for other prescribed medications, and it declines as the availability of medications to treat OUD increases.

"Despite the mounting crisis, the health care workforce in the United States does not receive adequate, standardized education about OUD and the evidence base for medication-based treatment. This has created a shortage of providers who are knowledgeable, confident, and willing to provide medications to patients. Many rural areas are being overwhelmed by the opioid epidemic and have very few, if any, trained and licensed providers who can prescribe the medications. Misinformation and a lack of knowledge about OUD and its medications are also prevalent across the law enforcement and criminal justice systems."


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Health Sciences Policy; Committee on Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder; Mancher M, Leshner AI, editors. Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Save Lives. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); March 30, 2019.