Perinatal Opioid Use Disorder Research, Race, and Racism: A Scoping Review

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Context: Racial/ethnic inequities are well documented in both maternal-infant health and substance use disorder treatment outcomes.

Objective: To systematically review research on maternal-infant dyads affected by opioid use disorder (OUD) to evaluate for racial/ethnic disparities in health utilization or outcomes and critically assess the reporting and inclusion of race/ethnicity data.

Data sources: Peer-reviewed literature in MEDLINE, Embase, and Web of Science from 2000 to 2020.

Study selection: Research reporting health utilization and outcomes data on dyads affected by OUD during pregnancy through the infant's first birthday.

Data extraction: We extracted data on race/ethnicity, study exposures/outcomes, how race/ethnicity data were analyzed, how authors discussed findings associated with race/ethnicity, and whether racism was mentioned as an explanation for findings.

Results: Of 2023 articles reviewed, 152 quantitative and 17 qualitative studies were included. Among quantitative studies, 66% examined infant outcomes (n = 101). Three articles explicitly focused on evaluating racial/ethnic differences among dyads. Among quantitative studies, 112 mentioned race/ethnicity, 63 performed analyses assessing for differences between exposure groups, 27 identified racial/ethnic differences, 22 adjusted outcomes for race/ethnicity in multivariable analyses, and 11 presented adjusted models stratified by race/ethnicity. None of the qualitative studies addressed the role that race, ethnicity, or racism may have had on the presented themes.

Conclusions: Few studies were designed to evaluate racial/ethnic inequities among maternal-infant dyads affected by OUD. Data on race/ethnicity have been poorly reported in this literature. To achieve health equity across perinatal OUD, researchers should prioritize the inclusion of marginalized groups to better address the role that structural racism plays.