Opioid Use Disorder and Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities: Prevention and Management

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2022 Feb;26(2):129-137. doi: 10.1007/s11916-022-01010-4. Epub 2022 Feb 18.


Purpose of review: This review aims to summarize risks and disparities associated with the prevalence and treatment of opioid use disorder in the perioperative and long-term setting, as well as evidence-based treatment and prevention targeted toward specific vulnerable populations.

Recent finding: There are significant demographic disparities in pain management and development and management of OUD in the chronic and surgical setting. While White patients traditionally receive more pain management, they are also at higher risk of developing OUD. Hispanic and Latin populations have the largest proportion of youth with OUD and often lack culturally appropriate translation services that allow for effective treatment. Native Americans have the second highest rate of OUD and often receive care in communities and healthcare settings that lack funding and resources to combat OUD. African Americans tend to suffer from the criminalization of OUD and are less able to seek treatment due to this, and furthermore, often lack community services that would benefit them. Additional vulnerable populations include homeless individuals that lack access to healthcare or health insurance. In addition, incarcerated individuals often lack access to naloxone and suffer from high rates of fatal overdose soon after being released to the community. People in rural settings lack needle-exchange programs and community-based interventions/support groups. Patients in the perioperative setting lack standard screening and pain management protocols. Interventions targeted toward each appropriate group can help decrease the rate of OUD and improve its treatment, and overarching interventions such as protocols, targeted funding, education and regulation can combat OUD for all populations.

Keywords: Disparities; Opioid; Opioid use disorder; Perioperative pain; Substance use disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Overdose* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / prevention & control


  • Analgesics, Opioid