Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) is accessed half as often in rural versus urban areas in the United States. To better understand this disparity, we used a qualitative descriptive approach to explore the experiences of individuals with OUD seeking MAT in rural New Mexico. Guided interviews were conducted with 20 participants. The frameworks of critical social theory, intersectionality theory, and the brain opioid theory of social attachment were used to guide data analysis and interpretation. Thematic content analysis derived five major themes which identified novel barriers and facilitators to MAT success, including a perceived gender disparity in obtaining MAT, challenges in building a recovery-oriented support system, and the importance of navigating a new normal social identity. This deeper knowledge of the experiences and perspectives of rural individuals with OUD could serve to address the rural-urban MAT disparity, leading to enhanced recovery capacity and transformative policies.
Keywords: New Mexico; health care disparities; medication-assisted treatment; opioid use disorder; qualitative description; rural health.