MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Joshua Barocas, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Section of Infectious Diseases
Boston Medical Center / Boston University School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Massachusetts has been particularly hard hit by the opioid epidemic despite lower opioid prescribing rates, near universal health insurance, and availability of opioid treatment. That said, it is difficult to estimate the population with or at-risk for opioid use disorder. It is generally a highly stigmatized disease and typical methods to estimate of opioid use disorder relay on contact with the healthcare system and/or patient reporting.
We used a unique and powerful methodology coupled with a first-in-the-nation linked database in Massachusetts to obtain both an accurate count of people with opioid use disorder who are known to the healthcare system and estimate the number who are out there but not yet known to the system.
We found that more than 275,000 people – or 4.6 percent of people over the age of 11 in Massachusetts– have opioid use disorder, a figure nearly four times higher than previous estimates based on national data. In 2011 and 2012, the prevalence of opioid use disorder in Massachusetts for those over the age of 11 was 2.72 percent and 2.87 percent, respectively. That increased to 3.87 percent in 2013, and even more, to 4.6 percent in 2015. Those between the ages of 11 and 25 experienced the greatest increase in prevalence of all age groups. The number of “known” persons increased throughout the study period – from 63,989 in 2011 to 75,431 in 2012, and 93,878 in 2013 to 119,160 in 2015. Continue reading