The Opioid Epidemic and the State of Stigma: A Pennsylvania Statewide Survey

Övgü Kaynak, Christopher R. Whipple, Erika Bonnevie, Joe A. Grossman, Erica M. Saylor, Matthew Stefanko, Courtney McKeon, Joe Smyser, Weston S. Kensinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis. Among initiatives surrounding treatment and prevention, opioid use disorder (OUD) stigma has emerged as a subject for intervention. Objectives: This study examines overall results and demographic differences of three subscales of a public stigma survey instrument: general attitudes, social distance, and treatment availability and effectiveness. Methods: A statewide sample of Pennsylvanian adults (N = 1033) completed an online survey about the opioid epidemic. Weighted percentage level of agreement was reported for each item. To determine significant differences in responding across demographic groups (gender, race, and urban/rural status), multiple one-way ANOVAs were analyzed. Significant differences in the level of agreement and disagreement (p <.05) were reported. Results: The majority of respondents agreed that the opioid epidemic is a problem and that anyone can become addicted to opioids; however, many Pennsylvanians still disagree that OUD is a medical disorder and continue to endorse social distance beliefs of people with OUD. Most participants agreed that there are effective treatments available, and that recovery was possible; however, a large portion of participants were unsure whether specific treatments are effective. Subscale mean differences were significant for gender and age. Conclusions/Importance: Findings highlight that stigmatized attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs about individuals who use opioids are still prevalent and that uncertainty remains about the effectiveness of OUD treatment. OUD interventions should use targeted messaging in order to impact the ongoing opioid crisis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1120-1130
Number of pages11
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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