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Study Shows America’s Opioid Treatment Deserts

Opioid addictions have crept into American lives. Whether it be a family member, friend, neighbor, coworker, or even themself: nearly half of Americans personally know someone addicted to opioids.

To learn more, we surveyed 1,000 people across the nation and found that 49% know someone with an opioid addiction. The survey revealed that most Americans aren’t sure what their first steps should be to help someone struggling with addiction.

The Impact of Opioid Addictions

On average, Americans know at least one person with an opioid addiction. Nearly half (46%) have a friend struggling with it, 37% know an extended family member, 27% an acquaintance, and 22% know an immediate family member (such as a partner, child, or sibling).

Nearly 2 out of 5 (39%) admit they are scared to talk to their loved ones about their addiction. The top reasons for this are because they’re not sure how to approach it, they’re worried they’ll get mad, and they aren’t sure talking about it will help.

Even if they don’t currently know someone with an addiction, Americans are concerned about the possibility of an addiction developing. More than half (52%) are afraid someone they know will become addicted to opioids.

Opioid Use Disorder Across the United States

Opioid addiction reaches every corner of the United States, but some regions are impacted more than others. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of people dealing with opioid use disorder (OUD). Nearly 2% of the population reported addiction to opioids in 2019-2020.

The East Coast in general reports a high number of opioid addictions with at least 1 out of every 100 people addicted to opioids in Delaware (1.3%), Connecticut (1.1%), Maine (1%), and Pennsylvania (1%) which were all part of the top 10 places with OUD. Overall though, OUD is seen across the United States with some of the highest rates down South in Alabama (1.6%), out West in Nevada (1.2%), and in the Midwest in Ohio (1.2%).  

States facing the lowest levels of OUD are also spread across the United States. Just 0.1% of the population of South Carolina, Nebraska, and Minnesota are addicted to opioids, but that isn’t a minuscule number.

That still comes down to 11,000 people fighting addiction across all three states. It’s also important to note that it only accounts for those who have admitted to their addiction. In total, this data includes only 1.7 million opioid abusers. The National Library of Medicine estimates that 3 million US citizens have had or currently suffer from an OUD.

Using information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) we also determined how many doctors there are per state that prescribe a medication to help opioid addicts in their recovery.

There are three types of medications that are used to help treat opioid addictions: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Methadone must be taken daily under medical supervision since it is an opioid. Naltrexone is available as an injection for people with OUD and must be given at a clinic (it is available as a pill for people with alcohol use disorder). Buprenorphine is the only medicine that can be taken orally from home with a prescription.

Medication Assisted Treatment


Opioid treatment deserts are a valid concern when you take a look at this data from SAMHSA. SAMHSA has a map where doctors that prescribe buprenorphine can upload their information and availability. While at first it appears like there are many doctors available to help people fighting addiction, the availability drops drastically when looking at which doctors are currently accepting new patients.

Opioid Treatment Accessibility


The top 5 states with the most doctors with availability to prescribe Buprenorphine:

  1. California – 123  
  2. New York – 111
  3. Massachusetts – 74
  4. Florida – 64
  5. Washington – 59

Texas, the second most populous state in the U.S., only reports 45 doctors accepting new patients. The numbers dwindle for states with smaller populations. Only one doctor is available in North Dakota, in the city of Fargo. Wyoming only reports 2 doctors, Mississippi 3, and there are just 4 in Montana and Nebraska.

We do want to note that there may be more doctors available because this is only a self-reported system.

Recovery Help

Of those who know someone with an opioid addiction, nearly half (49%) of Americans have tried to help them get treatment, but 82% said it was hard to find or get help. The biggest issue was that many didn’t know what help their loved ones needed or where to start.

Other roadblocks people faced included finding trusted therapists or doctors, as well as ones that specialize in helping people with opioid addictions. Many also reported having issues finding doctors nearby or doctors that prescribed the needed medications. A few respondents cited the cost of treatment as a big concern.

Nearly 70% of those surveyed feel like their community does not have enough therapists or counselors to help people with opioid addictions, and 62% feel that there are not enough doctors.

America’s Opioid Crisis

More than 1 out of 5 (22%) Americans are afraid of becoming addicted to opioids, and addiction concerns are at the forefront of many minds when they get injured or have surgery. More than 2 out of 5 (41%) shared that they avoid opioids for surgery or pain, and 54% would choose over-the-counter medicines instead of prescription painkillers.

A whopping 71% of Americans believe America is dealing with an opioid addiction crisis. The biggest issue that needs to be addressed? More than 7 out of 10 (72%) feel there needs to be easier access to treatment and care. Other changes people want to see include more education about how to help those with opioid addictions, less opioid prescriptions, and better support groups.

Ignoring the problem will not make the struggle go away. During the pandemic, many people turned to drugs and overdoses spiked to record levels. Now is the time for action. If you know someone with an opioid addiction, or have one yourself, there is help. SAMHSA has a national helpline that is free, confidential, and open all year long. Here at Bicycle Health, we offer confidential online suboxone treatment. You do not have to go through this alone.


In July 2022, we surveyed 1,103 people to get their feedback about opioids. Survey respondents ranged in age from 18 to 82 with an average age of 36. 48% were women, 50% men, and 2% nonbinary. 2% of respondents reported having an opioid addiction, 47% knew of someone with an addiction, and 51% did not know someone with an opioid addiction.

Data about individuals reporting past opioid use disorder by state was gathered through the Kaiser Family Foundation. Data about the number of doctors prescribing Buprenorphine was gathered through the  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected].

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