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Treatment Tools May Be Lacking For Minorities

This past week, NPR published an alarming story about discrepancies happening in the way our nation is reacting to the opioid crisis. Thankfully advancements have been made; particularly with the treatment drug buprenorphine, which has been shown to curb cravings and reduce overdoses. But access to that medication has been mostly limited to white Americans, per recent stats posted on the site.

Via research released by Jama Psychiatry, it appears as though African-Americans have benefited from buprenorphine the least and are barely prescribed it.

Dr. Pooja Lagisetty co-authored the study and had strong opinions about what she found.

“White populations are almost 35 times as likely to have a buprenorphine-related visit than black Americans,” Dr. Lagisetty explained. “This epidemic over the last few years has been framed by many as largely a white epidemic, but we know now that’s not true.”

The truth of the matter is, opioid-related fatalities are rising faster among the black population that they are amongst whites. So why has there been such a gap in the availability of this treatment drug?

Several other prominent physicians quoted in the article claim that economic issues are to blame. Buprenorphine is often made available via private insurance and specialized physicians. Experts like New York University professor Dr. Helena Hansen believe access to this type of treatment is limited to those with higher income levels.

“Buprenorphine was introduced as private office treatment, for a private market, with the means to pay,” Hansen told NPR. “The doctors prescribing it are really able to name their price, and that’s what we’re seeing here and that’s the reason why individuals with more resources — who are more likely to be white — are more likely to access treatment with buprenorphine.”

There may also be an awareness problem when it comes to this drug. A large percentage of lower-income Americans are unaware that a treatment like buprenorphine even exists and thus, aren’t pushing to seek it out.

The study concluded by stating that fewer than half of all Americans with an opioid addiction have access to buprenorphine. So while they praise its success and ability to curb cravings, they believe its accessibility needs to be greatly increased.

We are certainly well aware of the havoc that the opioid crisis is continuing to cause. And we have tools and accessibility to get the proper treatment to anyone who’s got a dependency. If you or someone you are close to is suffering, please reach out.