Opioid Use Disorder and Associated Infectious Disease: The Role of the Laboratory in Addressing Health Disparities

Christopher W. Farnsworth, Matthew Lloyd, Sophonie Jean

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Opioid use disorder, defined as a pattern of problematic opioid use leading to clinically significant impairment, has resulted in considerable morbidity and mortality throughout the world. This is due, at least in part, to the marginalized status of patients with opioid use disorder, limiting their access to appropriate laboratory testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Infections have long been associated with illicit drug use and contribute considerably to morbidity and mortality. However, barriers to testing and negative stigmas associated with opioid use disorder present unique challenges to infectious disease testing in this patient population. Content: This review addresses the associations between opioid use disorder and infectious organisms, highlighting the health disparities encountered by patients with opioid use disorder, and the important role of laboratory testing for diagnosing and managing these patients. Summary: Infections are among the most frequent and adverse complications among patients with opioid use disorder. As a result of health disparities and systemic biases, patients that misuse opioids are less likely to receive laboratory testing and treatment. However, laboratories play a crucial in identifying patients that use drugs illicitly and infections associated with illicit drug use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-193
Number of pages14
JournalThe journal of applied laboratory medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Opioid use disorder
  • infectious disease
  • injection drug use


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