Addiction Policy Reform – Many are Hesitant to Receive Vaccine

Interviews Reveal Vaccine Hesitancy among Individuals with Substance Use Disorder 


North Bethesda, MD, December 16, 2020 -- Addiction Policy Forum conducted interviews with a small sample of individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) and nearly half reported that they are hesitant to take a COVID-19 vaccine, despite research that indicates people with SUD face more severe outcomes from COVID-19 and a higher risk of contracting the SARS- CoV-2 virus.

The interviews were aimed at understanding experiences of individuals currently using substances, receiving treatment for a substance use disorder, and/or in recovery from a SUD during the pandemic, and attitudes around willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Interviews with 87 participants were conducted between September 14 and September 27, 2020.

Vaccine Readiness

Nearly half of participants reported that they are unwilling to take a vaccine for COVID-19. Among the approximate half that are willing to take the vaccine, most are willing to take it as soon as it becomes available, and a smaller percentage prefers to wait.

Nearly a quarter of respondents reported that requiring multiple doses of a vaccine would have an effect on their decision to get vaccinated. Several responses referenced to injections as potential triggers for individuals in recovery from a SUD: “Yes it would affect my decision- I was an IV drug user and injection is a huge trigger for me.”

While respondents reported their trust in healthcare providers declined during the pandemic, they cited healthcare providers as still the most trusted sources of information used to inform their health decisions, followed by information shared by family members, and information reported from TV/newspapers.

“Results from this study emphasize the vital role physicians play as an educator and messenger of information to inform patient healthcare decisions, especially among the SUD population.” explained Jessica Hulsey, president of Addiction Policy Forum. “Education is needed to deliver vaccine information to patients, especially to individuals struggling with addiction or in recovery, who experience more severe effects and may be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.”

 Impact on Addiction and Recovery

In the study, 2 out of 3 participants report that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their SUD or recovery status. “COVID has negatively affected many individuals receiving treatment or in recovery from addiction” shared Hulsey. “Many shared experiences with relapses and overdoses during the pandemic, struggles with meeting moving online, and disruptions in key services and programs.”

One participant shared: “I relapsed four times during the pandemic and prior to that, I was sober for a year and a half. It's made it a lot more difficult to do the 12-step work because most of that type of stuff is done face to face with a sponsor and with COVID like we're not meeting face to face.” Another individual interviewed shared: “My bigger triggers are boredom and isolation, and so working from home and having to quarantine and isolate myself, it was just like, you know, like jumping into the lion's den.”


The interviews included a total of 87 participants that self-identified as having an active substance use disorder (SUD), in recovery from a SUD and/or currently receiving SUD treatment. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected via one-on-one interviews with trained staff from the Addiction Policy Forum. Participation was voluntary and no identifying information was included in this report. The information gathered as part of this project allows for a greater understanding of their experiences and opinions on addiction-related issues in the context of COVID-19, and gives voice to participants.

This report from the Addiction Policy Forum sheds light on the experiences of individuals currently using substances, receiving treatment for a substance use disorder, and/or in recovery from a substance use disorder during the pandemic, and attitudes around willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine. This work was supported in part by contract funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).



Jessica Hulsey, president, Addiction Policy Forum

Alexandra Mellis, postdoctoral research fellow, Neuroscience Institute of the New York University School of Medicine

Braeden Kelly, vice president, Addiction Policy Forum

Marc Potenza, PhD, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, in the Child Study Center and of Neuroscience; Director, Center of Excellence in Gambling Research; Director, Yale Program for Research on Impulsivity and Impulse Control Disorders; Director, Women and Addictive Disorders, Women's Health Research at Yale

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2020 UFAM Rally Featured Speaker, Tony Mandarich

UFAM 2020 Rally Featured Speaker

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Former NCAA All American MSU & 2nd overall NFL Draft pick 

Tony Mandarich

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They were potent painkillers, habit-forming. He'd learned the second part the hard way.

They were blue gel capsules. He never forgot that detail. Over the previous four days, the former Michigan State football star had taken roughly 10 of them a day, well below his normal dosage, which nearly reached triple digits during his heyday.



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Heartfelt Thank You from Scott Masi

Heartfelt Thank You from Scott Masi

Unite to Face Addiction in Michigan's 8th Annual Recovery Live Residency Tour "Giving It Away To Keep It"

5 Days of Blood, Sweat, Tears, Opening Hearts, and Pure Emotion. 21 performances; 5,000+ attendees; 10 Michigan Counties, 20 Cities, 18 Performers, Artists, and Speakers; A National Documentary Film Crew, 5 Faith based Venues, 5 Treatment Facilities, 1 Alano Club, 2 Prisons, 4 Jails, 2 Recovery Community Centers; 2 Foster Care Programs, 3 Buffet Dinners, 5 Community Performances, 1 Narcan Training, and 1 Strong Amazing Unified Community putting a Face and a Voice to Recovery in Michigan. So grateful for the support of the Community Health Departments (OCHN, Region 10, CEI-CMH, the many Sponsors (Corporate, Individual, and Communiy), the many Recovery Houses that attended, and the many Volunteers from each of the communities we shared so much of our collective experiences, strengths, and hopes!!!💖 This is not an easy week to plan, schedule, coordinate and raise funds for...but we are a resilant and compassionate group of individuals from every walk of life that has one strong passion and that is to carry the message at any cost!!! So gateful to be part of STRENGTHINUNITY as we "GIVE IT AWAY TO KEEP IT" It truly is a Blessing to be part of something bigger than me as so many bared their Souls, Hearts, Fears, and Love to benefit one another. So proud to share this Journey with so many 💖🙏🤗😜💞


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Angels of Grace Awareness Bracelets

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