A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that under 5 percent of those referred for opioid treatment from the criminal justice system were directed to medication-assisted programs to treat their disorder. Medication treatment, usually consisting of methadone or buprenorphine, both of which are opioids, helps control symptoms of withdrawal and cravings that can cause relapse. It is considered the most effective way to manage opioid misuse and reduce opioid-related harms such as overdose.
In contrast, the researchers found that 40 percent of clients referred for treatment by other sources, such as health-care providers, employers, or self-referral, attended medication-assisted programs. The referral gap suggests a missed opportunity to link one of the most at-risk groups of people into effective treatment at a time when the nation faces a deepening opioid crisis.
The study appears in the December issue of Health Affairs.