Friday, November 13, 2015

The Changing Demographics of Opioid Addictions




by Gabriella Pinto-Coelho


There’s no doubt that the population of individuals seeking treatment for opioid addictions now is vastly different than the same group profile in the 1990's or even early 2000's. A new study out of Canada has shed more light on this reality: the changing demographics in Canada, the U.S., and abroad highlights the importance of treatment programs to evolve to meet the needs of a new and unique group.

The study focused on a large group of both men and women at 13 methadone clinics in Canada. All study participants were seeking treatment for an opioid dependence disorder and were attending methadone clinics for their treatment. Researchers found that the majority (52%) of women and 38% of men had their first contact with opioids from a doctor’s legitimate prescription. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why women were so vulnerable to opioid dependence originating from a doctor’s prescription. One hypothesis is that women are more likely to seek medical care in general. Furthermore, the women in the study were more likely to have both physical and mental health issues, a family history of psychiatric illness, and childcare responsibilities. Meanwhile, the men were more likely to hold jobs and smoke cigarettes. Interestingly, the average age of patients seeking treatment is 38, though they began using opioids at an average age of 25.

This profile is very different than the profile of patients seeking treatment in the 1990's; the average age at treatment was 25, while age at first use fell to 21. Patients seeking treatment in the 90's were predominantly male, injecting heroin, and without childcare or employment responsibilities. The unfortunate fact is that many current treatment methodologies are still based on this outdated model that has shifted in recent years. More and more women are seeking treatment for opioid addiction in Canada, the U.S., and other countries, and many treatment programs do not consider the impact of childcare and employment responsibilities on the lives of both women and men seeking help.


Given this shortage of patient-centered treatment programs, it comes as no surprise that programs like The Coleman Institute’s accelerated, outpatient detox are growing in popularity; it's private, compassionate, comfortable, and relatively quick detox programs seem to be appealing to people who are eager to get back to work, family, and other life responsibilities.

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