Stigma and Social Support in Pharmaceutical Opioid Treatment Populations: a Scoping Review

  • Sasha Cooper
  • Suzanne NielsenEmail author
Original Article


Pharmaceutical opioid (PO) use and harms are increasing dramatically. Treatment related stigma may present as a treatment barrier for people who use PO. Additionally, differences in social support between PO and other opioid treatment populations may positively influence treatment outcomes. A scoping methodology was utilised to map current knowledge, with searches performed in Medline, PsycINFO and Embase. Eligibility criteria required articles related to stigma and social support in treatment for PO use. The search identified 44 relevant articles. Stigma themes included individual perceptions of opioid dependence, community perceptions of opioid dependence, blame as a stigmatising factor, language surrounding opioid use, and treatment experience. Social support themes included family as support, web-based support, friends as support, partners as support and social network therapy. Limited literature was found focussing specifically on stigma and social support in people who use PO, highlighting that this is an important area for future work.


Pharmaceutical opioids Stigma Social support Opioid substitution therapy Opioid dependence Opioid treatment 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

SN is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Research Fellowship (#1,013,803). The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvements Grant Fund. SN has previously received untied education grants from Reckitt-Benckiser and Indivior. None of these funders had any role in this present work. Author SC has no conflicts to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Drug and Alcohol Research CentreUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Drug and Alcohol Services, South Eastern Sydney Local Health DistrictSydneyAustralia

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