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Member Research and Reports

UMass: Gender-tailored Treatment Could Ease Opioid Epidemic

Gender-tailored methods to address the harmful mental health effects of childhood adversity may help alleviate the current opioid crisis and make treatment more effective, concludes University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences assistant professor of health promotion and policy Dr. Elizabeth Evans in her latest research about opioid use disorder (OUD).

Looking for new ways to address the public health emergency that the opioid crisis has created, Dr. Evans and colleagues examined gender differences in associations between mental health conditions and adverse childhood experiences (ACE) among adults with opioid use disorder.

The study, published in Addictive Behaviors, suggests that treatment for OUD and mental health conditions, especially in the case of women, should be integrated in settings that also provide child care and create a supportive environment to address stigma and shame. “Women are often treated for OUD in predominantly male settings,” she says. “The care to address OUD and mental health conditions needs to be coordinated, and women’s fears need to be addressed,” such as concern over potential loss of parental rights if they seek treatment.

“The findings suggest ACE may cause or contribute to OUD differently for women and men,” says Dr. Evans. “We need to address these ACE issues, in addition to opioid use disorder and mental health problems, in order to resolve both of these conditions.”

Dr. Evans says addressing ACE and its impact needs to become a routine part of preventive healthcare.

“Evaluating and assessing for ACE should be standard practice in the primary care and other health care settings as a way to prevent mental health conditions and opioid use disorder,” she says.

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