NIH-supported analysis finds just seven states had a facility that accepted Medicaid, had a bed open the same day, and offered buprenorphine

Access to residential addiction treatment centers caring for U.S. adolescents under 18 years old in the United States is limited and costly, according to a new study supported by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers found that only about half (54%) of the residential addiction treatment facilities that they contacted had a bed immediately available, and for those that had a waitlist, the average estimated time before a bed opened was 28 days. In addition, the average daily cost per day of treatment was $878, with close to half (48%) of the facilities that provided information requiring partial or full payment upfront. On average, the quoted cost of a month’s stay at a residential addiction treatment facility was over $26,000.

Published in Health Affairs, this study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), both part of NIH, and led by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). The results build on previous research revealing that only one in four residential treatment centers caring for U.S. adolescents under 18 years old provide buprenorphine, a medication to treat opioid use disorder.

“The ability to access timely, evidence-based treatment for addiction can be a matter of life or death, and the current system too often fails young people,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA. “We need to make access to timely, affordable, and evidence-based care the norm across treatment settings.”

In 2022, an estimated 2.2 million people between the ages of 12 and 17 had a substance use disorder in the past year, with 265,000 having an opioid use disorder, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminstration (SAMHSA). In addition, previous data have reported a dramatic rise in overdose deaths among teens between 2010 and 2021, which remained elevated well into 2022. This increase is largely attributed to illicit fentanyl, a potent synthetic drug, contaminating the supply of counterfeit pills made to resemble prescription medications.

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