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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Study Looks At Media Reporting About Medications That Treat Opioid Use Disorder

A study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health found that news media coverage of medication treatment for opioid use disorder from 2007 to 2016 saw a significant increase in mentions of two medications used to treat the disorder — buprenorphine and naltrexone — in the final years of the study period, while mentions of methadone, another effective treatment, dropped during the same period.

The study appears in the April issue of Health Affairs.

The study also found that less than 40 percent of news stories on medication treatment for opioid use disorder mentioned that these medications are under-used or that individuals face barriers to accessing them.

The authors note that many individuals experiencing opioid use disorder are not receiving effective treatment medications, and that this shortfall remains a significant barrier to combating the opioid crisis. “Our findings,” the authors write, “suggest that underuse has not been framed as a problem in most news media reporting on these medications.”

The authors recommend that public health experts find more effective ways to convey through the news media and beyond the value of these medications in reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality.

Lead authors are Dr. Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management, Dr. Colleen Barry, Fred and Julie Soper Professor and Chair of the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management, and Dr. Beth McGinty, associate professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management.

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