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DEBUNKED Podcast launched to Debunk Myths about Harm Reduction

By Dr. Sandra H. Sulzer

The Tribal and Rural Opioid Initiative of Utah State University has launched a podcast to debunk myths around harm reduction. The first two episodes are already released with a pending special episode on COVID-19 myths in production.

While harm reduction strategies such as syringe distribution and naloxone education are the gold standard best practices recommended by the CDC, NIH and NIDA, there is still substantial resistance toward these methods, sometimes even amongst providers. There is evidence that abstinence-only treatment strategies are sometimes perceived to be morally superior, regardless of the evidence base. Harmful beliefs about Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) prevent some health providers from offering the best healthcare possible, and it may deter family members and others in support networks from offering needed support to persons who are in recovery and utilizing these services. For example, some people who have used or still use drugs have criminal convictions and may have lost their driver’s license. In those cases, it can be the difference between relapse and recovery to have a family member or friend willing to help provide transportation to a methadone clinic or needed appointments. When there is general stigma toward MAT, and people hold beliefs such as “you are substituting one drug for another,” fewer people get access to needed care. DEBUNKED works to openly talk about myths like this one in order to change beliefs around harm reduction best practices.

Our podcast is based on a systematic review of 99 articles related to effective stigma reduction around addiction treatment services. We also draw from two curricula we have designed that provide continuing education credits to substance use disorder counselors as well as naloxone training to community members that have both show statistically significant reductions in stigmatizing beliefs. Every DEBUNKED episode is planned and curated by an editorial board that includes persons in recovery or who use drugs, affected family members, public health experts and research scientists in partnership with Utah Public Radio. This program is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Rural Opioid Technical Assistance grant with additional support provided by Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield. The Tribal and Rural Opioid Initiative also receives support from The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute on Food and Agriculture Rural Health and Safety Education funding.

You can learn more about our Tribal and Rural Opioid Initiative efforts at and you can access our DEBUNKED podcast and promotional video from, or check out @DebunkedPod on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Sandra Sulzer Bio:

Dr. Sandra Sulzer oversees the DEBUNKED podcast as the Director of the Office of Health Equity and Community Engagement and the Tribal & Rural Opioid Initiative. She has a PhD in Sociology and, Community and Environmental Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a specialization in medical sociology and social psychology. She completed a health services research postdoc at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and an integrative medicine postdoc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. She is faculty in the Masters of Public Health program at Utah State University where she teaches Public Health Communication and Holistic Health.

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The opinions expressed herein are the views of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), SAMHSA, CSAT or the ATTC Network. No official support or endorsement of DHHS, SAMHSA, or CSAT for the opinions of authors presented in this e-publication is intended or should be inferred.