A substance use disorder occurs when the habitual use of alcohol, drugs, or both causes health problems and/or reduces an individual’s ability to live their daily life as they otherwise would. Approximately 20 million adults in the United States have a substance use disorder, and nearly 130 people in the United States die daily after overdosing on opioids. Substance use often co-occurs with mental illness—close to half of adults with a substance use disorder also experience a mental illness at the same time.

Disparities exist in access to treatment—for example, compared to white patients, Black patients are 4.3 times less likely to receive buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder. Moreover, Hispanics were 6.3 percentage points less likely to complete drug treatment than their white counterparts. In addition, Native Americans are 6.6 times more likely to die of an alcohol-induced causes than all other US races.

The impact of substance use disorders is even more concerning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has stressed our collective psyche. It is estimated that by 2021, half of the US population will experience significant traumatic stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic and, of those, nearly 35 million people could develop a new behavioral health condition (mental or substance use disorder).

Opportunities for innovation we are pursuing include novel strategies to help reduce the stigma around opioid addiction, models to reduce unjustified variation in prescribing patterns, and approaches to improve the efficacy of treatment for opioid use disorder. We are also supporting efforts to help individuals with new or preexisting substance use disorders get the care they need during the immediate COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath.

Featured initiative

Combatting Stigma Related to Opioids

We have supported Shatterproof, a national non-profit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the U.S., in their development of a national strategy to help reduce the stigma around opioid addiction. View this report, “A Movement to End Addiction Stigma,” for more detail, including specific action plans that organizations across the country can adopt to reduce stigma.

Video

Many are working to address the opioids crisis in the United States, but much work remains. It’s time to take action. Tom Latkovic, Senior Partner, and a leader of McKinsey’s Center for Societal Benefit through Healthcare explains.

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