Non-medical prescription opioid (NMPO) use is a substantial public health problem in the United States, with 1.5 million new initiates annually. Only 746,000 people received treatment for NMPO use in 2013, demonstrating substantial disparities in access to treatment. This study aimed to assess correlates of accessing substance use treatment among young adult NMPO users in Rhode Island, a state heavily impacted by NMPO use and opioid overdose.
This analysis uses data from a study of 200 Rhode Island residents aged 18 to 29 who reported NMPO use in the past 30 days. We compared individuals who had ever 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. We used multinomial logistic regression to determine the independent correlates of never attempting and unsuccessfully attempting to access substance use treatment.
Among 200 participants, the mean age was 24.5, 65.5% were male, and 61.5% were white. Nearly half (45.5%) had never attempted to enroll in substance use treatment, while 35.0% had successfully enrolled without ever facing barriers and 19.5% were unsuccessful in at least one attempt to enroll. In multivariable models, 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 a decreased likelihood of never attempting to enroll. A history of overdose 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 (n = 23), health insurance not approving enrollment (n = 20), and inability to pay (n = 16).
This study demonstrates significant disparities in access to treatment among young adults who report NMPO use. A history of overdose was shown to correlate with experiencing barriers to substance use treatment utilization. Interventions are needed 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.