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Editor's Note: Silencing Stigma
By Marianne Mallon
Social Work Today
Vol. 18 No. 4 P. 3

According to a recent statement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a study of 17,568 adults who survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014 found that "treatment of opioid use disorder with either methadone or buprenorphine following a nonfatal opioid overdose is associated with significant reductions in opioid-related mortality." NIH says, "Despite compelling evidence that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help many people recover from opioid addiction, these proven medications remain greatly underutilized."

A recent rash of high-profile suicides prompted a much-needed frank public discussion of the stigma associated with behavioral health conditions. Social workers recognize the stigma their clients with mental health challenges face. It is a powerful force.

Stigma is also a major barrier to both the treatment of another behavioral health condition, substance use disorders, and the widespread acceptance of MAT to treat the one of the greatest national challenges in recent time, opioid dependence.

Some programs view abstinence as the only true recovery—even though abstinence treatment has not been shown to reduce mortality and is less effective than medication at preventing relapse. Others reduce MAT to simply treating a drug problem with other drugs. Our cover story explores the issue of stigma and other barriers such as insurance coverage, training, and lack of education related to the greater acceptance of MAT.

Since this issue went into production, shocking human rights violations occurred in this country. The administration enforced policy separating immigrant children from their families at the border by conflating criminal activity with asylum seeking. After claiming the policy was "law" that must be changed by Congress, it was reversed following global outrage. Rescinding the policy was the very least that could have been done and does not solve this complex problem or account for the thousands of children already separated from their families. Furthermore, indefinite detention of children with their families is not a solution. Because our publication process requires advance deadlines, we were unable to include immediate coverage of the situation in this issue, but there will be coverage of the social work response to traumatized immigrant children and families in our next issue.

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We welcome your feedback at SWTeditor@gvpub.com.

Marianne Mallon