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Criminal Justice


Ernesto Escobedo


Research shows a significant rise in opioid abuse that has led to an opioid epidemic. Although research has shown the importance and effectiveness of treatment programs for opioid users, there is a lack of research on understanding community members’ perception and role of such programs and their perception of women who are opioid abusers and enter programs. The purpose of this study was to understand community members’ perception of opioid treatment programs for women in New York State’s Westchester County, using the theoretical framework of Becker’s social labeling theory. The study employed a phenomenological design using interviews. Results of the 20 interviews indicated that participants were: (a) aware of treatment programs but did not know how effective they were at reducing addiction, crime, or death; and (b) were unsure if there was a difference between men and women with opioid abuse and dependency (other than the biological differences). All participants indicated that they did not have a role in these treatment programs but believed that they should have a role. Participants reflected on the need to reduce stigma associated with opioid abuse and treatment through education and awareness. Implications for social change include policy makers, legislators, and criminal justice professionals updating policies and educational modules to include community members in the process, as stakeholders, to reduce overall dependency and improve reintegration into society for opioid users.