Inclusion of Sex and Gender Differences in U.S. State Action Plans for Opioid Use and Opioid Use Disorder

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Journal of Women's Health


Background: States have developed action plans to address the “opioid crisis” over the past several years. While sex- and gender-based differences have been identified in complications of opioid use, risks of addiction to opioids, barriers to treatment of opioid use disorder, and associated stigma, it is unknown if or to what extent opioid plans consider or account for these differences. The objectives of this study were to analyze U.S. state opioid action plans and their inclusion of sex- and gender-specific concerns. Methods: A content analysis of 49 state plans was conducted in June 2020, assessing their inclusion of 14 variables covering provider education, pregnancy-related, and sex- or gender-based differences in opioid addiction and treatment. Results: Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome was the most common variable, noted in 57% of plans. Only 14% included pregnancy-related stigma, and 4% identified gender-specific stigma. Contraceptives and family-planning were included in 12% and 10% of plans, respectively. Two states included more than half of the variables and five plans made no mention of sex or gender differences. Conclusions: Few state plans contained sex- or gender-specific information, and those that did focused almost exclusively on childbearing, excluding other unique considerations of opioid-using-women of all ages. The results of this study could improve the care of women using opioids by informing the strategies of state agencies and impacting legislative efforts for prevention initiatives, substance use disorder treatment, and law enforcement programs.

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