Only 1 in 5 U.S. adults with opioid use disorder received medications to treat it in 2021

NIH and CDC study finds telehealth associated with increased likelihood of receiving evidence-based standard of care

In 2021, an estimated 2.5 million people aged 18 years or older in the U.S. had opioid use disorder in the past year, yet only 1 in 5 of them (22%) received medications to treat it, according to a new study. Some groups were substantially less likely to receive medication for opioid use disorder, including Black adults, women, those who were unemployed, and those in nonmetropolitan areas.

Published today in JAMA Network Open, this study was a collaborative effort between researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The findings highlight that evidence-based medications for people with opioid use disorder — including buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone — continue to be vastly underused.

“Medications for opioid use disorder are safe and effective. They help sustain recovery and prevent overdose deaths,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Failing to use safe and lifesaving medications is devastating for people denied evidence-based care. What’s more, it perpetuates opioid use disorder, prolongs the overdose crisis, and exacerbates health disparities in communities across the country.”

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This page was last updated on Wednesday, August 23, 2023