The rate of opioid addiction in the USA and North America has skyrocketed in the last decade, and substance abuse treatment programs have not kept up with this pace. A new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study shows that only 1 in 5, or 20% of the people who struggle with an opioid addiction are currently in a substance abuse treatment program. From 2002 through 2012 the overdose rate in the USA for heroin alone almost quadrupled in number. In 2013, a single year, 8,200 people in America overdosed and died. In addition the overdose rate for prescription drugs, typically opioid based pain medications, doubled. These statistics come from the Center for Disease Control. In spite of additional funding this problem does not seem to be slowing down, and many point to a lack of effective treatment programs and difficulty obtaining medications that can help treat opioid dependence and addiction.
Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School assistant professor Brendan Saloner, Ph.D., the leader of the study on opioid addiction and substance abuse treatment, explained. “We found that 80 percent of people with an opioid addiction are not getting treatment. This hasn’t changed, despite the growing and more complicated problem of opioid abuse and dependence. The real challenge in this is getting more people into settings where they can get methadone or buprenorphine. We also need to think about changing the conversation about opioid addiction, which is a chronic relapsing illness, just like diabetes. Referring to drug users as junkies or criminals keeps people with addiction in the shadows and away from getting help. They may be open to treatment but they never seek it out because of the stigma associated with their addiction.”