Capstone: week 5 discussion: theory and research


Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Tierainie C. Johnson

Capella University

HS Capstone for MS Learners – HMSV5993

Dr. Christine Malone

October 28, 2023


Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Opioid addiction is a pressing and plaguing public health crisis today. Opioid use

disorder is a chronic condition characterized by prolonged and distressing use of opioids.

According to Dydyk et al. (2022), about 60 million people use opioids, and 16 million are in a

period of opioid disorder. Alarmingly, over 120,000 opioid-related deaths are reported

worldwide each year. Criteria for Opioid addiction diagnosis entail persistent craving for opioids,

increased tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. The widespread prevalence

of opioid use disorder underscores the significance of healthcare providers comprehending

opioids and referring patients to suitable substance use disorder treatment centres. This paper

explores the problem of opioid addiction and, provides an overview of the issue, analyzes the

diversity, equity, and inclusion aspects of the problem.

Problem Statement

Opioid epidemic affects diverse population and transcends traditional boundaries. It

impacts individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different age groups, genders,

and socioeconomic statuses. The population diversity presents unique challenges, as factors

contributing to opioid addiction may vary significantly among subgroups. Recognizing and

addressing the distinctive needs of the subpopulations in developing effective prevention and

intervention strategies.

There has been a significant surge in the use and misuse of prescription and illicit drugs

in recent years. The most distressing consequence of this situation is the heightened availability

of highly addictive opioids, contributing to the escalating opioid epidemic. Opioid epidemic is a

multifaceted crisis categorized by excessive use and abuse of opioid substances. Opioid epidemic

has profoundly impacted society and caused widespread devastation. Many lives have been lost


as a result of surge in addiction and loss of countless lives to overdoses. Overdoses often result

from consumption of potent opioids like fentanyl. Families and communities face shattered

relationships, increased crime, and economic strain. It disrupts family dynamics, contributes to

child welfare issues, and increases crime rates (Friedman et al., 2020). The crisis has exacerbated

healthcare costs, overwhelmed treatment facilities, and strained social services. Individuals

struggling with opioid addiction often face social stigma and discrimination, increasing difficulty

seeking help and treatment. Stigma and discrimination further isolate those in need of help.

Racial, socioeconomic, and geographical disparities have persisted, and vulnerable populations

are disproportionately affected. Opioid crisis significantly burdens healthcare costs, reduces

workforce productivity, and strains social welfare programs.

The opioid epidemic is a well-documented crisis with extensive research and data

available. Over-prescribing opioid pain relievers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone partly

drove it. Many individuals who became addicted to prescription opioids transitioned to heroin,

often seeking a more affordable alternative. Proliferation of synthetic opioids has significantly

increased the risk of overdose deaths due to their potency. Opioid epidemic exhibits geographical

variations, and some areas, such as Appalachia, experience disproportionately high rates of

addiction and overdose. Despite efforts to expand access to addiction treatment, significant gaps

remain, preventing many individuals from receiving the necessary care.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Issues

Addressing the opioid epidemic requires recognizing the diversity of those affected and

ensuring equitable access to resources and treatment. People from different racial, ethnic, and

socio-economic backgrounds may experience the opioid epidemic differently, and disparities in

access to care and support services must be addressed (Jalali et al., 2020). For instance, African-


American and Hispanic communities have been disproportionately affected and experience

higher rates of opioid-related deaths. Equity issues are particularly relevant as individuals in

underserved communities may face more significant barriers to treatment and support. Lower-

income communities often lack access to quality healthcare and addiction treatment services,

exacerbating the problem (Altekruse et al., 2020). Inclusion is another critical aspect to consider.

Individuals with opioid addiction may face stigma and discrimination, further hindering their

recovery efforts. Creating inclusive and supportive environments is essential to ensure that

everyone, regardless of their background, can access treatment and resources without fear of

judgment or discrimination.

Literature Review

Best practices for managing opioid addiction are medication-assisted treatment, harm

reduction strategies, prevention programs and integrated healthcare services. Medication-assisted

treatment, like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, is recognized as one of the most

effective approaches for opioid addiction treatment (Taylor et al., 2021). MAT helps individuals

reduce cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse risk. Harm reduction programs minimize

negative consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence. Prevention programs like

school-based programs, community awareness campaigns, and prescription drug monitoring

programs have shown promise in preventing opioid misuse and addiction (Compton et al., 2019).

Integrating addiction treatment with primary healthcare services reduces barriers to care.

Areas for continued investigation are barriers to treatment access, long-term recovery

support, and impact on families and communities. Many individuals with opioid addiction still

face barriers to accessing care. Secondly, there is need for more research on strategies to support

long-term recovery and prevent relapse, including psychosocial interventions, employment


support, and housing stability (Kiburi et al., 2022). Opioid epidemic has far-reaching

consequences on families and communities. Exploring the social and economic impact of opioid

addiction on a broader scale is essential to inform policy and intervention strategies.


The opioid addiction epidemic is a complex and multifaceted problem that demands

immediate attention. It affects a diverse population and presents numerous equity and inclusion

challenges. While best practices are in place to address this crisis, some areas merit further

investigation barriers to treatment access, co-occurring disorders, long-term recovery support,

and the broader societal impact. Literature review highlights significance of evidence-based

approaches, such as Medication-Assisted Treatment and harm reduction strategies. However,

continued research is needed to bridge gaps in our understanding of opioid addiction. Opioid

addiction epidermis can be combated through comprehensive understanding of the problem and a

commitment to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion.



Altekruse, S. F., Cosgrove, C. M., Altekruse, W. C., Jenkins, R. A., & Blanco, C. (2020).

Socioeconomic risk factors for fatal opioid overdoses in the United States: Findings from

the Mortality Disparities in American Communities Study (MDAC). PLOS ONE, 15(1),


Compton, W. M., Jones, C. M., Baldwin, G. T., Harding, F. M., Blanco, C., & Wargo, E. M.

(2019). Targeting youth to prevent later Substance Use Disorder: An underutilized

response to the us opioid crisis. American Journal of Public Health, 109(S3), S185–S189.

Dydyk, A. M., Jain, N. K., & Gupta, M. (2022, June 21). Opioid Use Disorder. PubMed;

StatPearls Publishing.

Friedman, S. R., Krawczyk, N., Perlman, D. C., Mateu-Gelabert, P., Ompad, D. C., Hamilton, L.,

Nikolopoulos, G., Guarino, H., & Cerdá, M. (2020). The opioid/overdose crisis as a

dialectics of pain, despair, and one-sided struggle. Frontiers in Public Health, 8.

Jalali, M. S., Botticelli, M., Hwang, R. C., Koh, H. K., & McHugh, R. K. (2020). The opioid

crisis: a contextual, social-ecological framework. Health Research Policy and Systems,


Kiburi, S. K., Mwangi, J., & Maina, G. (2022). Exploring the experiences of clients receiving

opioid use disorder treatment at a methadone clinic in Kenya: a qualitative study.

Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 17(1).



Taylor, J. L., Johnson, S., Cruz, R., Gray, J. R., Schiff, D., & Bagley, S. M. (2021). Integrating

Harm Reduction into Outpatient Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Settings. Journal of

General Internal Medicine, 36(12), 1–10.

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