Few medical facilities offer opioid treatment medication: study

by NCN Health And Science Team Posted on January 15th, 2019

Few medical facilities around the U.S. offer proper medication to treat opioid use disorder, even as the country continues to grapple with a growing epidemic, a study says.

Only 36 percent of medical facilities offered patients addicted to opioids buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone, the three medications approved by the FDA for long-term opioid management, according to a study published Tuesday in Health Affairs.

“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,” Ramin Mojtabai, a professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School, said in a press release.

More than 70 percent of medical facilities in Rhode Island, New York and Vermont offered at least one of the three FDA-approved medications, leading the rest of the United States. Conversely, Hawaii, Arkansas and Idaho had the three lowest rate of treatment facilities that offered buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone.

RELATED Opioid overdoses top motor vehicle crashes as cause of preventable death
The lack of preparedness from medical facilities is troubling in the face of such staggering opioid addiction numbers, researchers say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the number of opioid deaths soared from 12,000 to 47,000 from 2002 to 2017.

Last year, opioid overdoses eclipsed automobile crashes as a cause of preventable death.

To date, 36 states and the District of Columbia have adopted an expansion of Medicaid authorized under the Affordable Care Act, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. This experts say, would help fund opioid abuse treatment programs.

Overall, those states are 21 percent more likely to offer opioid medication treatment, and facilities in those states are 89 percent more likely to the treatment if it accepts Medicaid.

“These results are likely related to the more robust coverage of medication treatment under Medicaid programs in expansion states,” Mojtabai said.

Mojtabai wants more states to adopt Medicaid expansion to more quickly and effectively address the problem of opioid addiction throughout the country.

“States get block grants from SAMHSA for substance use and mental health facilities, and they could require facilities that receive these payments to offer medication treatment for opioid use disorder as a condition of receiving block grant funding,” Mojtabai says.

Image: As of 2016, only 36 percent of medical facilities in the United States offered patients addicted to opioids buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone.

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