1 in 2 Americans Knows Someone with an Opioid Addiction

Few Know How to Get Help

The Opioid Crisis continues to surge in the United States, as fentanyl-related overdoses are on the rise nationwide and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already fragile healthcare system. A new report by Bicycle Health, an online addiction treatment provider, surveyed over 1,000 Americans nationwide on opioid use disorder (OUD) and what they thought would help; it also analyzed data from Kaiser Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to find opioid addiction rates by state as well as potential opioid treatment deserts across the nation. 

The Opioid Crisis hits closer to home than many Americans think- the survey found that 49% of Americans know someone with an opioid addiction; 52% are afraid someone they know will develop an addiction. The majority know a friend or family member, and on average, most Americans know at least one person with an OUD. Yet 39% of respondents were scared to bring up addiction with the person that they know- top reasons include not knowing how to approach the conversation, worry that the person they know will get mad, and not being sure a conversation will help. 

OUDs are a nationwide problem, but some parts of the United States fare worse than others. Opioid addictions are particularly prevalent in the East Coast region of the U.S, with the District of Columbia having the highest population concentration with OUDs in the nation. Rates are also high in the South. 

One of the most clinically effective ways to treat opioid addiction is through medication assisted treatment, or MAT. MAT is a highly regulated effort with three main medications: methadone, taken daily under supervision; naltrexone, which is injected at a clinic; and buprenorphine, the only medication of the three able to be prescribed as a pill and taken outside of a clinic. Yet there is a general lack of doctors accepting patients that prescribe buprenorphine: for instance, 2 of the top 3 states with the highest addiction rates in the population only have doctors taking patients in the single digits. Alabama, with a OUD population of 66,000 people, only has 15 doctors able to take patients and prescribe buprenorphine.

Opioid treatment deserts are a valid concern, particularly when focusing on doctors able to prescribe buprenorphine who are currently accepting new patients. There are some states that are better equipped, however: the top 5 states with the most doctors with availability to prescribe Buprenorphine are California, New York, Massachusetts, Florida, and Washington.

What, then, is needed to help those around us with OUDs? 82% of survey respondents said it was difficult to find or get help for those with an OUD, and many simply had no idea what the person they know needed or where to start. Stigma runs deep around OUDs, and trust is incredibly important: other barriers to care included finding a therapist or counselor they trusted, as well as a good doctor. 67% feel like their communities don’t have enough therapists and counselors to help those with opioid addictions, while 62% also felt their communities didn’t have enough doctors to adequately help. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans are afraid of opioid addiction for themselves, to the point of 54% of respondents saying they choose over the counter pain medication in lieu of opioids due to fear of addiction. 

72% of survey respondents cited easier access to treatment and care as the top way to combat the opioid crisis. Other ways include education, fewer prescriptions, and community support groups. There’s deep consensus that the United States is in the midst of an opioid crisis- 71% agree- and the worst thing to do is ignore it. Now is the time for action- and fewer barriers to receiving this crucial help. 

About Bicycle Health

Bicycle Health started out with a single clinic in Redwood City, California, but it became clear that they could reach even more people if their services were available online. Thus, Bicycle Health launched its virtual care platform in 2020, which provides empathetic, affordable, person-to-person care at scale, including medication management, behavioral health treatment, support groups, and care coordination, supporting patients wherever they’re at in their recovery journey.


Photo by Mishal Ibrahim on Unsplash

Bicycle Health
Latest posts by Bicycle Health (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *