Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

New Research: Negative Attitudes About Medications for OUD Among Criminal Legal Staff

Image of guard in prison with citation of paper Negative Attitudes About Medications for OUD Among Criminal Legal Staff

Stigma is a barrier to the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD) in the criminal legal system, and how staff think about criminal involvement and addiction in general might explain their negative attitudes about medications for OUD (MOUD), such as buprenorphine or methadone, as well.

This new paper, coauthored by ADAI Assistant Professor Mandy Owens, PhD and colleagues from East Tennessee State University, reports on a survey of a sample of U.S. criminal legal staff (correctional/probation officers, nurses, psychologists, court personnel, e.g.) asking about their attitudes about justice-involved people and addiction.

Responses revealed that:

  • Staff who had more stigmatizing attitudes toward justice-involved people and believed that addiction was a moral weakness were more likely to have negative attitudes about MOUD
  • Staff with more education and who believed addiction has a genetic basis were more likely to have positive attitudes about MOUD

However, only stigma toward justice-involved people significantly predicted negative attitudes about MOUD

In other words, stigmatizing attitudes about justice-involved people, more so than beliefs about addiction, contributed significantly to negative attitudes about MOUD.

Stigma toward addiction, involvement in the criminal legal system, and the use of medication to treat opioid use disorder is pervasive and can be a matter of life or death for many people. This study helps get at the root of what drives negative attitudes about MOUD among criminal legal staff and can help inform new approaches to implementing MOUD in the criminal legal system by targeting stigma around criminal involvement in staff.

Citation: Moore KE, Siebert SL, Kromash R, Owens MD, Allen D. Negative attitudes about medications for opioid use disorder among criminal legal staff. Drug and Alcohol Dependence Reports 2022 (in press).