A new study shows stigma is hurting our response to the opioid epidemic

When it comes to combating opioid misuse and addiction, needle exchanges and safe injection sites have decades of evidence behind them. Yet a new study published in Preventive Medicine found that a majority of Americans oppose both — and stigmatizing attitudes toward people with addiction appear to be to blame.

For the study, researchers conducted a survey of more than 1,000 Americans asking about their attitudes on needle exchanges, safe injection sites, and addiction more broadly. They found that about 39 percent of Americans support needle exchanges, while around 29 percent back safe injection sites.

The survey also measured respondents’ stigmatizing attitudes toward addiction, putting together a composite of questions — whether they’d be willing to have a person who is using opioids marry into their family or start working closely with them on a job, and their overall feelings of people who use opioids.

The researchers concluded: “Individuals with higher stigma toward people who use opioids were less likely to support legalization of safe consumption sites … or syringe services programs.”

German Lopez/Vox