A new study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that the majority of people referred for opioid treatment through the criminal justice system are not being referred to evidence-based medication-assisted programs to treat their disorder.
“This underutilization of medications is due to many factors, including the cultural stigma that these medications are ‘replacing one drug for another’ and that recovery can only be attained through abstinence. This thinking runs contrary to the scientific evidence,” said Noa Krawczyk, a doctoral student in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health and the study’s lead author
Researchers also found that people referred for opioid treatment through other sources like health-care providers and employers were a lot more likely to able to attend medication-assisted programs.
The study which will appear on the December issue of Health Affairs was able to conclude that the research suggests that the most high-risk group of people are not presented the opportunity to receive effective treatment for their disorder.
“If we want to address overdose risk among the most vulnerable people while also cutting down the constant cycle of people in and out jail, we need to get more effective treatment to people in the criminal justice system,” says Brendan Saloner, PhD, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management and a senior author.
Krawczyk also believes that efforts can be made to reduce stigma and educate the criminal justice staff about the benefits treatment medications in improving health and criminal justice numbers.