A new study published in the December issue of Health Affairs, found that just 5 percent of people referred for opioid addiction treatment by the U.S. criminal justice system receive the best treatment, according to HealthDay.
In contrast, the study found that 40 percent of people referred for opioid addiction treatment by other sources – including health care providers, employers or themselves – were treated with medication.
Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are considered the most effective way to treat opioid addiction, said researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They help control withdrawal symptoms and cravings that can lead to relapse and they reduce the risk for overdose.
The low rate of referrals for treatment medication among people in the criminal justice system highlights a missed opportunity to connect the people at the highest risk for opioid addiction with effective treatment, the researchers noted.
Their findings stem from an analysis of about 72,000 adults admitted for the first time to a treatment program for opioid abuse. This included more than 17,000 people referred by police, judges, prosecutors, probation officers or others in the local, state or federal criminal justice system.