Attitudes toward and experiences working with patients who misuse opioids among board certified physicians in Ohio

Subst Abus. 2021;42(4):466-470. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2021.1901172. Epub 2021 Mar 24.


Background: The United States has experienced substantial consequences associated with the opioid epidemic. One such consequence has been an increased need for patients who misuse opioids to interface with health care professionals. As such, it is important to understand physician attitudes toward and experiences with this patient population. The goal of this paper is to assess the extent to which physicians hold negative attitudes toward patients who misuse opioids and whether this patient population receives differential treatment. Methods: Using a mixed methods design, we surveyed board-certified physicians in Ohio regarding their attitudes toward patients who misuse opioids as well as their observations of bias toward these patients in health care settings. Results: Our findings suggest that negative attitudes toward patients who misuse opioids are common among physicians as were personal experiences of bias toward this patient population. We also found that physicians rationalized treating these patients differently and perceived barriers to achieving more equitable treatment. Finally, some physicians expressed a desire for additional training and resources to reduce bias. Conclusions: Negative attitudes toward patients who misuse opioids may serve as a critical barrier to patients accessing care in areas heavily affected by the U.S. opioid epidemic.

Keywords: Opioid misuse; addiction; bias; health care; stigma; substance misuse.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Certification
  • Humans
  • Ohio
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Physicians*
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid