• Introduced a new scale that assesses levels of perceived stigma and internalized stigma among individuals who use opioids
• Impacts of opioid-related stereotypes on self-esteem and awareness of such stereotypes were linked with psychosocial outcomes
• Aftercare OUD medication treatment related to specialty opioid clinics is linked to greater opioid-related perceived stigma
• Provided initial construct validity for a newly-developed Brief Opioid Stigma Scale among individuals with OUD.
One key strategy to improve treatment access for persons with opioid use disorder (OUD) is overcoming stigma that is internalized by such individuals. Because few theoretically-derived, multidimensional measures of substance abuse stigma exist, we contribute a brief, theoretically-based measure of opioid-related stigma (adapted from Corrigan’s Self-Stigma of Mental Illness Scale) to assess perceived stigma and internalized stigma among individuals with OUD. This study presents initial validation of the newly-developed Brief Opioid Stigma Scale among 387 adults who entered an inpatient opioid managed-withdrawal program. The scale assesses: (1) Stereotype awareness (“Aware”), or the extent to which individuals who use opioids perceive community members to believe OUD-related stereotypes; (2) Stereotype agreement (“Agree”), or the endorsement of stigmatizing beliefs by individuals who use opioids; (3) Self-esteem decrement (“Harm”), or the diminution of self-esteem due to these negative stereotypes’ impacts on self-worth. Psychosocial measures including self-esteem, depressive symptoms, mental and physical functioning, and desire for aftercare OUD medication treatment, were administered to assess construct validity. Results showed that greater endorsement of the “harm” stigma subscale was associated with greater depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem, and poorer mental and physical functioning. The “aware” stigma subscale displayed similar overall patterns of associations with self-esteem and depression but to a lesser magnitude. The “aware” stigma subscale was positively associated with desire for aftercare methadone and naltrexone treatment, and the “harm” subscale was positively associated with desire for aftercare buprenorphine treatment. Results indicated good initial construct validity. Tailored stigma interventions are recommended for specific aftercare OUD medication treatments.