Here's one quick explanation for why America's opioid epidemic is getting worse: It's easier to get high than to get help for addiction.
A new report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an insurance organization, bares that out. Analyzing data from millions of its own customers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) recorded a 493 percent increase in people diagnosed with opioid use disorders from 2010 through 2016. At the same time, there was only a 65 percent increase in the number of people using medication-assisted treatment — where medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are used to ease opioid cravings, which addiction experts consider the gold standard for opioid addiction care.
Think about this: The rate of opioid use disorder diagnoses has grown by nearly eight times the rate of the most effective treatment. That's a lot of people not getting the standard of care for what they're diagnosed with.
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There are many other alarming statistics in the BCBS report. For example, nearly 1 percent of BCBS's commercially insured members were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder in 2016. More than one in five members filled at least one opioid prescription in 2015. And the higher the dose and longer someone is on opioids, the more likely they are to develop an opioid use disorder.
But the disparity between how many people have been diagnosed with an opioid use disorder and how many people have obtained medication-assisted treatment really sticks out; it shows the fundamental failure in how America has responded to the opioid crisis.