Only 25% of Those Addicted to Opioids Receive Recommended Medications: CDC Study

Doctors were less likely to prescribe opioid addiction medications to Blacks, Latinos and women, CDC researchers discovered.

Recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) suggests that nearly 82,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2022, making it the deadliest year on record for opioid abuse and fatal overdoses. However, available medications that could help individuals dealing with addictions to opioids often are not prescribed by doctors.

Among the more than 9 million adults diagnosed with opioid use disorder, researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that only about 2 million received medication-assisted therapy, according to findings published on June 27 in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The opioid abuse epidemic has continued to rage in recent years, accounting for nearly 70% of all overdose deaths. The abuse and misuse largely stem from doctor overprescribing habits for pain and kickbacks from big Pharma, which has encouraged the use of powerful and addictive pain medications in recent years.

Opioid Treatment Underuse

In this new study researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, led by Dr. Deborah Dowell, found that roughly 4% of the American population reported needing treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) in 2022. However, only 25% received treatment for opioid use disorder using effective drugs like buprenorphine and methadone.

When used at low to moderate doses, both buprenorphine and methadone have been proven effective at reducing opioid dependence, and helping combat overdose deaths.  However, both the drugs are seriously underused, the researchers determined.

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Overall, half of Americans who felt they needed it got treatment, but about 30% received treatment without medications, which can be less effective and may lead to relapse.

Black and Latino patients were nearly 20% less likely to receive medications like methadone to treat opioid addiction than white patients. The same was true for women, who were about 10% less likely to receive treatment than men, the data indicates.

More adults ages 35 to 49 received treatment, about 69% overall, compared to 20% of younger adults.

“Expanded communication about effectiveness of medications for OUD is needed to reduce nonfatal and fatal overdoses. Increasing awareness among persons who use drugs and their families, friends, and other contacts that medications for OUD are effective is critical,” Dr. Dowell’s team concluded. “Clinicians and treatment providers should offer or arrange evidence-based treatment, including medications for OUD.”


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