This thesis examined the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the structure of drug treatment in the United States and how the effects have influenced the experience of undergoing and providing services in a variety of contexts. The COVID-19 pandemic emerged amid an opioid epidemic, which has taken the lives of over 564,000 Americans since the late 1990s. With overdose deaths increasing since the onset of the pandemic and government agencies responding with policy changes, recent research in the social sciences and on drug treatment services has necessarily shifted its focus to the effects of the pandemic on people who use drugs (PWUD) and the delivery of drug treatment. Yet, this work has focused primarily on logistical changes that occurred within specific public health or treatment settings; it has not investigated the experiences of individuals accessing or facilitating different drug treatment modalities. Based on 20 semi-structured interviews with 16 patients and four clinicians, this thesis examines how both groups across the United States experienced changes to drug treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic. I argue that the temporal dimensions of the pandemic are key for understanding the variety of treatment experiences of my participants, as services fluctuated over time in concert with the pandemic's developments. However, I also argue that there are certain elements of the treatment experience that are "timeless," in other words not contingent on the pandemic, that continue to influence treatment in both positive and negative ways, including the therapeutic relationship and prohibitive cost of care. This project contributes to the call for a greater understanding of the shifting landscape of drug treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially from the perspective of PWUD accessing care.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Shepherd, Abigail, "An Anthropological Study of the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic On Drug Treatment in the United States" (2022). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1289.