“I'm putting a Band-Aid on a bullet hole the only way I know how:” a qualitative study of barriers and facilitators to opioid misuse and recovery in Nevada

Original research
Swigart, Tessa & Lisa Lee

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Open Access / OK to Reproduce


Peer Reviewed



Our study aimed to understand why people start to use drugs, why they continue to use, what motivates them to continue to use or to seek treatment, and why individuals maintain recovery or return to use.

Findings/Key points

We found five significant themes as perceived by the participants: that trauma is a risk factor for drug misuse; that the function of opioids in everyday life is a source of temporary relief but highly disruptive in the longer term; that recovery is most often a complicated and nonlinear process; that there are many barriers to accessing services that are both logistical and psychosocial; and that compassion, hope, and having a sense of purpose are crucial to the recovery process. The experiences of the study participants portray opioid use as a rational choice to escape the emotional ramifications of trauma. However, due to the physiological dependence and physical risk of opioids, drug policies that criminalize addiction, societal stigma, and the barriers to timely access of harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services, opioid users often become trapped in a distressing and dangerous cycle. Lastly, respondents indicated that hope, value, belonging, and purpose are powerful factors in cultivating intrinsic motivation for making positive changes and fostering resilience in the recovery process.


Semi-structured qualitative interviews (n=35)


About PWUD
Mental health
Barriers and enablers
Illegal drugs