The U.S. is in the grip of an opioid-addiction epidemic, yet 80 percent of people who are dependent on heroin or painkillers are not getting treatment, according to a new research letter published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Over the past decade, deaths from overdoses of heroin have quadrupled, according to the CDC, and deaths from prescription painkillers have doubled. The two trends are related: Patients who became hooked on prescription painkillers when the drugs were being heavily marketed in the 1990s have been switching to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to access in some areas. Three in 1,000 Americans reported having used heroin in 2013.
For the study, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed data from 6,770 people who reported on the National Survey of Drug Use and Health that they were either dependent on opioids or that the drugs' use was causing problems in their lives.
The study found that the most common treatments for opioid addiction are self-help groups and outpatient methadone clinics. The authors also found that many places lack sufficient drug-treatment programs, and only 22 percent of addicts received any kind of treatment in the 2009-2013 survey period. Their findings echo a March study that found that because of a lack of capacity, there are nearly a million opioid addicts who would not be able to access treatment, even if they wanted to.