Breaking Barriers: Addressing the Stigma of Substance Use Through Interprofessional Education

health care professionals talking at a table

The language, attitude and treatment towards people dealing with substance use can have a negative effect on the individuals who are needing and seeking treatment.

We sat down with Zach Sneed, Ph.D., CRC, LCDC, BC-TMH, about the stigmas surrounding substance use, and how providers can effectively collaborate to provide an improved healthcare experience for their patients through interprofessional education.  

Sneed is the Assistant Dean for Outcomes and Assessment and an Assistant Professor and Director for the Master of Science in Addiction Counseling program for the School of Health Professions.

The Stigmas of Substance Use

Zach Sneed, Ph.D. talking at a conference table

Zach Sneed, Ph.D.

“There is this inaccurate concept that people are very responsible for their own substance use, and if something bad happens to them because of their abuse, it makes them a bad person.” Sneed explains.
Addiction is a brain disorder, and is often not treated as such. The public routinely views addicts as failures or beyond the point of help. However, Sneed believes it's also important to be aware that not everyone that uses a specific substance develops the clinical disorder of addiction to go along with it. Addressing these stigmas is recognized as a key element in eliminating obstacles to care.

According to an article published in the National Library of Medicine, 35% of individuals in the U.S. have serious mental illness and nearly 90% of those who have substance use disorders do not receive treatment. For example, patients with Alcohol Use Disorder who feel stigmatized are half as likely to seek treatment than those who felt welcomed to seek treatment.

Coming Together for Better Patient Care

That’s where interprofessional education can play a valuable and often vital role in offering  these patients a safe, trusted environment to receive the treatment and care they need. Interprofessional education is a concept based on the idea that healthcare functions better when different types of professionals are working together to reach the goal of good patient care.
“The goal is to empower the patient to stay engaged with the healthcare team,” Sneed says.
Through interprofessional education, students and healthcare professionals can interact on topics while utilizing their own expertise to benefit the overall care of the patient. With this teamwork, Sneed believes that patient outcomes are better, there is reduced harm, and there is an increased likelihood that the patient will benefit from the treatment.

Sneed, along with others, have propelled TTUHSC to be a frontrunner in destigmatizing addictions and substance use with interprofessional education. Each year, TTUHSC even hosts a large interprofessional education summit where important conversations and practices are put into place to make strides in this field.

“All of us have this goal that our patients feel safe and heard and not feel shamed whenever they interact with their healthcare provider. And we want to help our students become the best clinical provider they can be.”

A shift in mindset from the healthcare level all the way down to the public level can help organize the needed resources for improved treatment. Sneed and other team members are working together interprofessionally to accomplish just that.

Related Stories

Education

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Names New School of Medicine Dean and Executive Vice President for Clinical Affairs

John C. DeToledo, M.D., has been named the TTUHSC School of Medicine dean and executive vice president for clinical affairs.

Education

Finding Purpose and Perspective in West Texas

Edgar Garza, second year student in the Master of Athletic Training program, spoke about his journey to TTUHSC and his hopes to shape the future of athletic training.

Education

U.S. News & World Report Ranks the TTUHSC School of Nursing Among Best Online Programs for 2024

U.S. News & World Report, the global authority in education rankings, unveiled its 2024 rankings for Best Online Programs, and the TTUHSC School of Nursing ranked among the nation’s top nursing schools.

Recent Stories

Education

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Names New School of Medicine Dean and Executive Vice President for Clinical Affairs

John C. DeToledo, M.D., has been named the TTUHSC School of Medicine dean and executive vice president for clinical affairs.

Education

Finding Purpose and Perspective in West Texas

Edgar Garza, second year student in the Master of Athletic Training program, spoke about his journey to TTUHSC and his hopes to shape the future of athletic training.

Research

Almodóvar Receives NIH Grant to Study Pulmonary Hypertension in HIV Patients

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the NIH recently awarded Sharilyn Almodóvar, Ph.D., a four-year, $2.67 million grant to study how the HIV virus damages the normal interactions between different cell types in the lung arteries that lead to the condition.