Overcoming medication stigma in peer recovery: A new paradigm

Noa Krawczyk, Tianna Negron, Maia Nieto, Deborah Agus, Michael I. Fingerhood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Treatment for opioid use disorder involving opioid-based pharmacotherapies is considered most effective when accompanied by psychosocial interventions. Peer-led support groups are widely available and have been described by many as fundamental to the recovery process. However, some individuals using medications face stigma in these settings, which can be contradictory and counterproductive to their recovery. Methods: This paper describes the development of the “Ability, Inspiration and Motivation” or “AIM” group, an alternative peer support group that aims to remove medication stigma from peer recovery. Qualitative interviews with staff, peers, and clients of a community-based buprenorphine treatment program were used to establish the core components of the curriculum to support client needs. Results: Staff, peers, and clients of the buprenorphine program indicated a need and desire to establish a peer recovery group that recognizes persons on medication as being in recovery and destigmatizes use of medication to treat opioid addiction. A respectful environment, holistic perspective on health, spirituality, sharing, and celebration were all established as necessary pillars of the AIM group curriculum. Conclusions: The community-based effort to establish and develop the AIM group demonstrates that combining the strengths of a peer support with evidence-based medication treatment is both possible and desirable. Shifting the culture of peer recovery groups to support the use of medications may have implications for improving treatment retention and should be considered as a potential strategy to reduce the burden of the opioid epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-409
Number of pages6
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018


  • 12-step
  • Buprenorphine
  • medication treatment
  • opioid use disorders
  • overdose prevention
  • peer support
  • self-help
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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