Police Officers, Stigma, and the Opioid Epidemic

Published in: International Journal of Police Science & Management (2020). doi: 10.1177/1461355720962524

Posted on RAND.org on October 28, 2020

by Nathan E. Kruis, Jaeyong Choi, Richard H. Donohue

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Researchers have suggested that provider-based stigma of substance use disorders is one barrier to fighting the opioid epidemic. Yet, to date, virtually no study has examined provider-based stigma among law enforcement officers who are on the front line of the opioid crisis. This study attempts to fill this gap in the literature by assessing provider-based stigma toward opioid-using persons among a sample of 208 police officers working for departments located in the Northeastern Region of the United States. Results show that officers hold relatively high levels of stigma toward this vulnerable population, as measured by perceptions of dangerousness, blame, and social distance; however, comparatively, officers hold less fatalistic views toward this group of persons. Additionally, our multivariable analyses indicated that officer rank, support for the disease model of addiction, and beliefs about the demographic characteristics of a substance-using person are significantly associated with provider-based stigma among officers. Potential policy implications are discussed within.

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