Introduction: The opioid epidemic is ravaging people, families, and communities in Appalachia. However, limited research has examined how “everyday” people (e.g., not chronic pain patients, not medical professionals) living in these communities how opioids have impacted their lives.
Objective: Identify the perception of the opioid epidemic on individuals, families, and communities from people living in region most impacted regions.
Methods: Patients were recruited at Remote Area Medical clinics throughout Central and Southern Appalachia to complete interviews online (N = 169) or over the phone (N = 26), including one open-ended question about how opioids have impacted their lives.
Results: Using the qualitative method content analysis, several themes were identified, including both the positive and negative impact of opioids from the online interviews. Additionally, resiliency was found to be a common theme and a theme not often emphasized by scholars and the media. These themes also highlight the importance of social support in these communities. Further, in the phone interviews, we were able to replicate the themes, and an additional theme was identified: Systemic Cause of Opioids.
Conclusion: Opioid intervention must be comprehensive and include the cultural context that recognizes community ties, family and kinship support, resilience, and systemic barriers to addressing the opioid epidemic. Future interventions must harness the existing resiliency and social support in these communities to effectively combat the opioid crisis in Appalachia. Otherwise, opioids will remain the insider and further insulate Appalachian communities from systemic recovery.
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Roberson PNE, Cortez G, Trull LH, Lenger K. In their own words: how opioids have impacted the lives of “everyday” people living in Appalachia. J Appalach Health 2020;2(4):26–36. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0204.05