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NIH spending $558,942 to apply critical race theory to opioid abuse treatments

Study will apply ‘Public Health Critical race praxis’

The National Institutes of Health wants to know how critical race theory can be applied to prescriptions that address opioid addiction.

The University of Washington study, “Applying Critical Race Theory to investigate the impact of COVID-19-related policy changes on racial/ethnic disparities in medication treatment for opioid use disorder,” hopes to “inform future policy and interventions to improve equitable care for [Opioid Use Disorder],” according to the proposal.

The study is set to end in 2027. The NIH allocated $558,942 to the research.

The project is led by Emily Williams, a health professor at UW. According to her faculty bio, she is an “addictions health services and disparities researcher and an implementation scientist.” Assistant Professor Jessica Ann Chen, a clinical psychologist, is also working on the study.

Neither responded to two emailed requests for comment sent in the past two weeks that asked for a definition of critical race theory, how it will be applied in this study, and for alternative reasons, besides racism, white patients and black patients might be treated differently when it comes to prescriptions.

Buprenorphine, a prescription drug used to help fight opioid addictions, is less accessible to black and Hispanic patients than white patients, according to the study’s abstract.

The abstract also states policy changes provided “increased flexibility” to prescribing medications used for treating opioid addictions, such as buprenorphine, and is a chance to study the influence of less restriction on opioid addiction medication for racial minorities.

“These policies may reduce existing disparities by lowering care barriers but could exacerbate disparities if they are not equally beneficial across groups,” the abstract states. “COVID-19-related policy changes present an unprecedented opportunity to examine impacts of a structural intervention—relaxed MOUD restrictions—on disparities generated by structural racism and discrimination.”

They will use a “Public Health Critical race praxis,” in the study.

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A medical reform group said CRT “should have no place in medicine.”

“Critical race theory presupposes that ‘systemic racism’ is responsible for all group differences in outcomes and then searches for evidence in favor of that theory,” Do No Harm’s Ian Kingsbury told The Fix via an emailed statement. “It’s a perversion of the scientific method and should have no place in medicine,” Kingsbury, the group’s research director, said.

Kingsbury also said that other factors besides racial and ethnic disparities can affect the statistics of prescription drug rates. “Doctors generally don’t prescribe drugs to treat substance abuse unless the patient expresses an interest in getting clean.”

The problem of CRT in medicine and broader society continues, according to Kingsbury.

“The American Medical Association calls CRT ‘vital to the pursuit of health equity,’” Kinsburgy said, quoting a “health equity guide overview” published by the association.

Critical race theory is also becoming increasingly prevalent in American schools.

“CRT is now pervasive in American education, from preschool through medical training,” Kingsbury said.

The NIH frequently funds studies that seek to apply CRT or related theories to medicine. The health agency devoted at least $297 million to hundreds of projects focused on racism and health, a 2022 College Fix analysis found.

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Eleanor Blair is a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville studying Humanities and Catholic Culture.