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Allison interviewed by Audrey Baxter (September 11 2019) Allison interviewed by Audrey Baxter (September 11 2019)

Informing the National Narrative: Stories of Utah's Opioid Crisis

Published by Utah State University - Merrill-Cazier Library


Informing the National Narrative: Stories of Utah’s Opioid Crisis is a collection of thirty-one interviews (audio and transcripts) of individuals from nine Utah counties who have a personal connection to the opioid epidemic (e.g., people in recovery, family members, treatment providers, etc.). Interviews were conducted by trained community scholars and Utah State University (USU) personnel. These first-person narratives give voice to and commentary on the lived experiences of those most affected by substance use disorder. The collection is a companion to Voices from Drug Court: Cache Valley Drug Court Oral History Project.

In 2017 more than 72,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose; this is higher than the number of United States military personnel who died during the twenty-year Vietnam War. From 2013 through 2015, Utah’s opioid overdoses outpaced deaths from firearms, falls, and motor vehicle accidents. During the last several years, health agencies and local coalitions have worked diligently to combat this epidemic through addressing opioid prescribing habits, educating the public about the risks of opioids and their addictive properties, and improving access to services to those who have substance use disorder. Throughout this work, stigma surrounding substance misuse, and the barriers it creates, has emerged, perpetuating a belief that substance misuse is the result of a moral failing, experienced by “bad” or “weak” people. Continuation of this belief, especially when internalized by people who experience substance use disorder, leads to isolation and exclusion from the essential care and compassion afforded to those with other medical conditions. This collection aims to help combat this unsound belief.

This project grew out of a partnership between USU Extension Health Extension: Advocacy, Research, & Teaching (HEART) team and USU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives, with support and training provided USU Kinesiology and Health Science Department. In August 2018, the HEART team partnered with USU Special Collections and Archives with the intent to create a project that involved and learned from those closest to Utah’s opioid epidemic, individuals actively dependent on opioids, individuals in recovery, their family members, and services providers. Beginning with trainings in October 2018, interviews took place between June and December 2019, culminating in vetted transcripts hosted in this collection in January 2020. The project concludes with community conversations events, co-sponsored by Utah Humanities, in Utah, March–July 2020.

The project received a seed grant from USU Extension to support the collection of interviews, trainings, and community conversation events. USU Libraries funded trainings, the digital collection, and interview transcription. Project directors are Kandice Atismé, Randy Williams, and Dr. Ashley Yaugher. This project has received USU Institutional Review Board approval, Protocol Numbers 9685 and 10746. Principal Investigators: Randy Williams, Sandra Sulzer, Kandice Atismé, and Ashley Yaugher.

Content Warning: Please note that these interviews discuss individuals’ experiences with substance use and addiction. Interviews may contain detailed accounts of substance use, overdose, abuse, child abuse, and sexual assault that some people may find disturbing. Please read each file’s description for specific content warnings.



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