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Service providers' perspectives on substance use and treatment needs among human trafficking survivors.

INTRODUCTION: Understanding substance use and treatment needs for survivors of human trafficking remains an underdeveloped area in the field of substance use treatment. This study assessed the nature of substance use among survivors of all types of human trafficking and identified treatment barriers and needs, as reported by human trafficking service providers in one Midwest major metropolitan area.

METHODS: Participants were purposively selected from agencies that served foreign-born and domestic-born survivors of human trafficking. The study interviewed fifteen key informants across 13 agencies directly serving survivors of trafficking.

RESULTS: Providers highlighted frequent use of alcohol and marijuana, as well as polysubstance use. They noted survivors' significant use of opioids, associated concerns regarding fentanyl-related deaths, and increased frequency of stimulant use. Barriers for addressing substance use problems with survivors included low self-perceptions of need, lack of available residential or inpatient treatment options, and prioritizing basic needs such as housing over substance use treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Results underscore how broader trends in substance use and overdose in a region can mirror substance use patterns and treatment needs of human trafficking survivors. Further, a need exists for broader substance use screening and low-barrier referral services to address emergent needs of survivors of trafficking.

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