“We found that 80 percent of people with an opioid addiction are not getting treatment,” says study leader Brendan Saloner, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. “This hasn’t changed, despite the growing and more complicated problem of opioid abuse and dependence.”
There are a number of areas around the country where treatment programs are limited or not available, the article reports. Many of the available programs are overcrowded, said Saloner. Many opioid addicts will look to outpatient programs or doctors for buprenorphine prescriptions, as opposed to inpatient programs. Patients addressing their addiction in a doctor’s office rose from 25 percent in 2004 to 35 percent in 2013.
“The real challenge in this is getting more people into settings where they can get methadone or buprenorphine,” he said. “We also need to think about changing the conversation about opioid addiction, which is a chronic relapsing illness, just like diabetes. Referring to drug users as junkies or criminals keeps people with addiction in the shadows and away from getting help. They may be open to treatment but they never seek it out because of the stigma associated with their addiction.”
The findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.