A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy found that a significant gap persists between opioid use disorder (OUD) prevalence and treatment.

The study, which examined OUD prevalence and OUD treatment at the national and state levels from 2010 to 2019, highlights the pervasive and ongoing treatment gaps among persons with OUD across the United States. Despite progress expanding access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), low utilization of MOUD has limited their public health impact. The study found a steady increase in the number of individuals who received MOUD over the past decade; however, the increase has not kept up with the high rates of OUD and drug poisoning deaths.

The study attributed several factors to the treatment gap:
1. The lack of MOUD treatment providers and programs, particularly in remote and rural areas;
2. Insufficient uptake among the patients of existing treatment providers, many of whom are not
prescribing to their maximum capacity or at all, or who refrain from being publicly listed on the
buprenorphine locator tool;
3. Systematic barriers, like provider stigma and the lack of institutional support and referral programs;
4. Legal hurdles, like exclusionary zoning restrictions or resource-prohibitive staffing requirements, that prevent establishment of new opioid treatment programs (OTPs);
5. Failing to offer and encourage use of MOUD when individuals seek treatment for OUD;
6. Patient inability to afford out-of-pocket costs; and
7. The disconnect between available treatment options and the needs and desires of patients with OUD (i.e., lower barrier treatment models, like mobile vans or bridge clinics, may be more
effective for some people than highly structured treatment settings).

Ultimately, the research underscores the need to reduce barriers to treatment and increase access to
evidence-based services.

Read the full study here.