Adolescents suffering from the often-deadly grips of opioid addiction are not receiving the same level of treatment as their adult counterparts, according to the latest study from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Researchers say that while 26 percent of adult heroin addicts in the United States were given medication-assisted treatment back in 2013, in the form of methadone or suboxone, only two percent of the adolescent population received the same opportunity.
Sadly, this lack of attention to the young drug addict also takes place when it comes to cases involving prescription painkillers.
In examining the data of nearly 140,000 patients, researchers found that 12 percent of the adult addicts were given federally subsidized medications to help ease them into recovery, with less than one percent of adolescents being given the same consideration.
These findings are detailed at great lengths in the latest issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
This is a problem that is going to require a great deal more attention, said lead researcher Kenneth Feder. Otherwise, the opioid epidemic could spiral into something far worse than what we are witnessing today.
“There’s more that needs to be done across the board to facilitate access to these treatments when they’re medically necessary,” Feder told Reuters Health. “The best validated treatment for somebody struggling with an opiate addiction is treatment that includes some sort of medication assistance.”
But the system is simply not set up to take care of youngsters grappling with a drug problem.
As it stands, methadone and heath care clinics cannot treat anyone under the age of 18 without written permission from a parent or guardian. What’s more is Medicaid requires adolescent drug addicts to actually fail a treatment program at least two times before it pays for them to get on methadone—a policy that is contributing to more sickness and death than healthy Americans.
In 2015, somewhere around 276,000 adolescents were using opioids, with 122,000 having an addiction to these substances, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Of these cases, thousand of them died from overdoses to heroin, prescription pain pills and methadone, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Medical experts, like Dr. Lisa Marsch of the Geisel School of Medicine in New Hampshire, say the federal government’s current policy on treating adolescent drug addiction is “a real disservice based on the science and the data.”
She believes it is imperative for youngsters to receive medication-assisted treatments the moment an addiction is identified.
“We want a chance to stop this problem early,” she said.
There is some concern that the situation will only worsen with the Republican’s plan to repeal Obamacare. The party’s newly drafted “American Health Act” would reportedly freeze Medicaid expansions and sever ties with some “essential” heath benefits under Obamacare, including substance abuse programs.
Medicaid, which presently covers around 70 million Americans, pays for more drug addiction services than any other insurer in the nation.