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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown Assesses Access to Substance Use Treatment among Young Adults Who Use Prescription Opioids Non-medically

Non-medical prescription opioid (NMPO) use has become a major public health problem in the United States. There were 4.3 million active NMPO users in the United States in 2014, while 1.5 million Americans initiated NMPO use in 2013. However, only 746,000 people received treatment for NMPO use in 2013, highlighting substantial disparities in access to treatment.

[Photo: Mr. Elliot Liebling]

The prevalence of NMPO use is particularly high among young adults; 2.8 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds in the United States were users in 2014. These rates trail only marijuana as the most commonly reported drug of use among young adults.

The purpose of this study, led by Mr. Elliot Liebling, current Masters of Public Health student, was to assess the correlates of accessing substance use treatment among young adult NMPO users in Rhode Island, a state heavily impacted by NMPO use and opioid overdose. The researchers used data from 200 Rhode Island residents to compare those who had successfully enrolled in a substance use treatment program without ever facing barriers, individuals who had ever attempted to enroll but were unable, and individuals who never attempted to enroll.

The researchers found that nearly half of participants had never attempted to enroll in substance use treatment, while 35 percent had successfully enrolled without ever facing barriers and 19.5 percent were unsuccessful in at least one attempt to enroll. Non-White participants were more likely to never have attempted to enroll compared to white participants. Previous incarceration, experiencing drug-related discrimination by the medical community, and a monthly income of $501-$1500 were associated with an increased likelihood of unsuccessfully accessing treatment. The most commonly reported barriers to accessing treatment were waiting lists, health insurance not approving enrollment, and inability to pay.

This study demonstrates significant disparities in access to treatment among young adults who report NMPO use. This important work provides the foundation for interventions to reduce drug-related discrimination in clinical settings and to provide mechanisms that link young adults (particularly with a history of overdose) to evidence-based treatment.

This study was published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, Volume 11, Issue 1.

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