Opioid use disorder in the United States: Insurance status and treatment access

William C. Becker, David A. Fiellin, Joseph O. Merrill, Beryl Schulman, Ruth Finkelstein, Yngvild Olsen, Susan H. Busch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background: In the United States, insurance status and rates of treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder are unknown. Methods: Cross-sectional survey: 2002-2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Bivariate and multivariate associations between demographics, treatment and insurance status and presence or absence of opioid use disorder were investigated. Results: On unadjusted analysis, young respondents, respondents of Hispanic ethnicity (OR 1.5; 95% CI 1.1-2.2), unemployed respondents (OR 2.6; 95% CI 1.8-3.8) and respondents with Medicaid (OR 4.5; 95% CI 2.5-8.3) or lack of insurance (OR 3.2; 95% CI 1.8-5.9) were more likely to have opioid use disorder. On unadjusted analysis among those with any substance use disorder, 12-16 year olds were more likely to have opioid use disorder (OR 3.4; 95% CI 2.0-5.8) than a non-opioid substance use disorder, as were women (OR for men 0.6; 95% CI 0.5-0.7) and unemployed respondents (OR 1.5; 95% CI 1.02-2.1). Only 15.2% of those with past-year opioid use disorder received treatment in the past year. Respondents treated for opioid use had higher rates of Medicaid (p < 0.01), Medicare (p < 0.01) and other public assistance (p = 0.01) compared with those treated for other substances. Treatments for opioid use were more likely to be hospital (p = 0.04) and inpatient rehabilitation (p = 0.02) settings compared to treatment for other substance use. Among those with opioid use disorder, not being employed was independently associated with receiving treatment (AOR 3.5; 95% CI 1.4-8.5). Conclusions: In the U.S., high rates of unemployment, Medicaid and uninsurance among those with opioid use disorder and low rates of treatment suggest that efforts to expand treatment must include policy strategies to help reach a population with significant barriers to treatment access.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-213
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008


  • Access to care
  • Insurance
  • Opioid use disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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