Critical Linkages: Opiate Addiction and Elevated Risk of Human Trafficking


Amy Thompson, PhD; Joan Duggan, MD; Jamie Dowling Tawes, PhD; Courtney Stewart, LSW, LCDC III & Jerry Kerr | September 20 | 11:30 AM-12:30 PM

Topic: Healthcare, Direct Service | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate

Opioids are an effective means by which human traffickers seize potential victims due to the secondary effects of impaired judgment, dulled physical pain and ultimately addiction. The addictions are often used to coerce victims to exchange sex for addictive opioids and other substances of abuse in a vicious cycle that often ties them to their human trafficker indefinitely. In a recent survey of survivors of human trafficking, 84% used drugs during their exploitation. Alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine were used by more than 50% of respondents and nearly 22% used heroin (Raphael & Feifer, 2017). Victims of human trafficking are also at increased risk for overdose. For those working in clinical or mental health service settings, opioid addition is an important risk factor for human trafficking. This risk factor is examined as part of the services offered to clients who utilize Northwest Ohio Syringe Services (NOSS), the first syringe exchange program in Northwest Ohio. This session will provide information on the linkage between human trafficking and opiate use and ways to help assess the risk of human trafficking by those currently using opioids.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Explain the relationship between opioid use and human trafficking.

·  Identify ways to assess the risk of human trafficking in individuals using opioids.

·  Describe potential resources for those using opioids or suspected victims of human trafficking.

About the Presenters