Women-Reported Barriers and Facilitators of Continued Engagement with Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Academic Article uri icon


  • Opioid-related fatalities increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic and show little sign of abating. Despite decades of scientific evidence that sustained engagement with medications for opioid use disorders (MOUD) yields positive psychosocial outcomes, less than 30% of people with OUD engage in MOUD. Treatment rates are lowest for women. The aim of this project was to identify women-specific barriers and facilitators to treatment engagement, drawing from the lived experience of women in treatment. Data are provided from a parent study that used a community-partnered participatory research approach to adapt an evidence-based digital storytelling intervention for supporting continued MOUD treatment engagement. The parent study collected qualitative data between August and December 2018 from 20 women in Western Massachusetts who had received MOUD for at least 90 days. Using constructivist grounded theory, we identified major themes and selected illustrative quotations. Key barriers identified in this project include: (1) MOUD-specific discrimination encountered via social media, and in workplace and treatment/recovery settings; and (2) fear, perceptions, and experiences with MOUD, including mental health medication synergies, internalization of MOUD-related stigma, expectations of treatment duration, and opioid-specific mistrust of providers. Women identified two key facilitators to MOUD engagement: (1) feeling “safe” within treatment settings and (2) online communities as a source of positive reinforcement. We conclude with women-specific recommendations for research and interventions to improve MOUD engagement and provide human-centered care for this historically marginalized population.


publication date

  • 2022