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Health Aff (Millwood). 2019 Apr;38(4):643-651. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2018.05075.

News Media Reporting On Medication Treatment For Opioid Use Disorder Amid The Opioid Epidemic.

Author information

1
Alene Kennedy-Hendricks ( alene@jhu.edu ) is an assistant scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management and assistant director of the Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, Maryland.
2
Jonathan Levin is a doctoral student and research assistant in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
3
Elizabeth Stone is a senior research analyst in the Department of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine.
4
Emma E. McGinty is an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and deputy director of the Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
5
Sarah E. Gollust is an associate professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, in Minneapolis.
6
Colleen L. Barry is the Fred and Julie Soper Professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management and codirector of the Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Abstract

Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are effective treatments for opioid use disorder (OUD), but levels of use remain low. Given the importance of the news media as a source of health information for the public and its role in shaping knowledge about these medications, we examined reporting on OUD medication treatment amid the opioid crisis. Analyzing news media reporting can provide insight into the public dialogue around this issue. Standardized search terms were used to query high-circulation/viewership US news sources in the period 2007-16 for stories about OUD medications. News reporting about the medications increased substantially in 2015-16. Local news coverage in states with high opioid overdose rates highlighted more negative than positive consequences of OUD medication use. Fewer than 40 percent of news stories about the medications mentioned that they were underused. Although addiction experts view underuse of OUD medications as a significant barrier to combating the opioid crisis, our findings suggest that underuse has not been framed as a problem in most news media reporting on these medications. Public health and addiction experts need to develop more effective strategies for disseminating information on the value of these medications in reducing opioid-related morbidity and mortality.

KEYWORDS:

Opioids; addiction; news media; substance use treatment

PMID:
30933576
DOI:
10.1377/hlthaff.2018.05075

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