Barriers in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

The US is experiencing a public health crisis. In the US in 2016 alone, there were over 63,000 drug poisoning deaths. Despite these concerning figures, it is estimated that fewer than 20% (3.8 million) receive treatment and for those who do receive support relapse rates are high.

A recent study, published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, interviewed practitioners to get their perspectives on the barriers people face trying to access treatment and the challenges they face during their time receiving care.

182 substance use treatment professionals participated in the study.

On analysis of the results seven key themes emerged:

  1. There is a desperate need for additional training, education with regards to reporting and interpretation of guidelines, and use of evidence-based practices so that services can offer uniform delivery.
  2. The demand for additional treatment services and further integration between systems of care. 
  3. There is a need for further government funding and resources.
  4. Stigma and discriminatory beliefs held by the public, professionals, and the recovery community were seen as a key barrier.
  5. Practitioners believed there needed to be greater cooperation and collaboration between various elements of the care continuum as well as between various recovery ideologies.
  6. Reductions in regulations, requirements, and incentives.
  7. Expansion of recovery support services and care for families.

It is vital that these concerns are appreciated and efforts to build a united workforce that is trained to deliver evidenced, ethical treatment is promoted.

Ashford, Robert D., Austin M. Brown, and Brenda Curtis. "Systemic barriers in substance use disorder treatment: A prospective qualitative study of professionals in the field." Drug and alcohol dependence (2018).
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