Racial, Ethnic, and Economic Discrimination In Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

"This study demonstrates that buprenorphine treatment is concentrated among white persons and those with private insurance or use self-pay. This finding in nationally representative data builds on a previous study that reported buprenorphine treatment disparities on the basis of race/ethnicity and income in New York City.2 It is unclear whether the appearance of a treatment disparity may reflect different prevalence in OUD by race/ethnicity. We did not restrict the analysis to individuals with OUD because the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey are unlikely to accurately capture OUD prevalence, but a recent analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggests that the prevalence of opioid misuse is similar for black (3.5%) and white (4.7%) adults.4

"Despite the enactment of both mental health parity legislation and Medicaid expansion, the proportion of self-pay buprenorphine visits remained relatively steady across the study period.5 A recent study demonstrated that half of the physicians prescribing buprenorphine in Ohio accepted cash alone,6 and our findings suggest that this practice may be widespread and may be associated with additional financial barriers for low-income populations.

"This study provides a snapshot of the national differences in buprenorphine treatment for OUD. With rising rates of opioid overdoses, it is imperative that policy and research efforts specifically address racial/ethnic and economic differences in treatment access and engagement."


Lagisetty PA, Ross R, Bohnert A, Clay M, Maust DT. Buprenorphine Treatment Divide by Race/Ethnicity and Payment. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online May 08, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0876