Despite the mounting death toll of America’s opioid crisis, only a minority of facilities that treat substance use disorders offer patients buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone — the three FDA-approved medications for the long-term management of opioid use disorder, according to a new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Notably, just six percent of medication-offering facilities offered all three FDA-approved medications to treat opioid use disorder, the study found. Ideally, facilities should be offering any of these three medications to best meet a patient’s needs, as some patients may benefit more from methadone, others from buprenorphine and yet others from naloxone, extended release.
In the study, published in the January issue of Health Affairs, the researchers analyzed national survey data and found that from 2007 to 2016, the proportion of substance use disorder treatment facilities that offered any medication treatment for opioid use disorder increased from 20 to only 36 percent. In other words, as recently as 2016, when the opioid crisis was already deepening, nearly two-thirds of these facilities still did not offer such medications.
The analysis focused on the more than 10,000 facilities that offer outpatient services. Treatment facilities were significantly more likely to offer medication treatment in 2016 in states that have recently expanded Medicaid coverage, the researchers found.
“These results highlight the importance of Medicaid expansion in increasing the availability of medication treatment for opioid use disorder, though gaps in access remain widespread,” says study lead author Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, professor in the department of mental health at the Bloomberg School.