Centering culture in the treatment of opioid use disorder with American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: Contributions from a National Collaborative Board

Am J Community Psychol. 2023 Mar;71(1-2):174-183. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12620. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities are disproportionally impacted by the opioid overdose epidemic. There remains a dearth of research evaluating methods for effectively implementing treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD) within these communities. We describe proceedings from a 2-day Collaborative Board (CB) meeting tasked with developing an implementation intervention for AI/AN clinical programs to improve the delivery of medications to treat OUD (MOUD). The CB was comprised of Elders, cultural leaders, providers, individuals with lived experience with OUD, and researchers from over 25 communities, organizations, and academic institutions. Conversations were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded by two academic researchers with interpretation oversight provided by the CB. These proceedings provided a foundation for ongoing CB work and a frame for developing the program-level implementation intervention using a strength-based and holistic model of OUD recovery and wellbeing. Topics of discussion posed to the CB included engagement and recovery strategies, integration of extended family traditions, and addressing stigma and building trust with providers and clients. Integration of traditional healing practices, ceremonies, and other cultural practices was recommended. The importance of centering AI/AN culture and involving family were highlighted as priorities for the intervention.

Keywords: American Indian and Alaska Native adults; community-based participatory research; dissemination and implementation science; medication for opioid use disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders*