Not Enough Doctors Are Treating Heroin Addiction With A Life-Saving Drug

Since 2000, fatal overdose rates involving heroin and prescription painkillers have increased by 200 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2013 to 2014 alone, the rates jumped by 14 percent.

One way to explain the stubbornness of the epidemic is to look at the availability of the maintenance medication buprenorphine, sold most commonly under the brand name Suboxone. Taking the medication (or methadone), along with counseling, is an opioid addict’s best chance for recovery, public health experts say. But in the U.S., doctors cannot treat more than 100 buprenorphine patients at a time.

Nearly half of all 3,100 counties in America have no doctors certified to prescribe buprenorphine by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to a Huffington Post analysis. Hundreds of counties have very few certified doctors. In places like South Dakota, which has just 27 bupe-certified physicians, some people drive hundreds of miles outside the state to fill prescriptions.

Buprenorphine Treatment Capacity By County

Many counties in the Northeast have moderate to high numbers of doctors certified to treat buprenorphine patients. But just 31 percent of the 7,745 doctors in those areas are certified to treat the legal limit of 100 patients. Even in Vermont, where the governor in 2014 signed several bills adding $6.8 million in additional funding for medication-assisted treatment programs, only 28 percent or just 60 doctors are certified at the 100-patient level.

As of 2012, the most recent year for which federal data were available, just 13 states had enough doctors certified to prescribe buprenorphine to their addicted residents, according to a study published in August in the American Journal of Public Health.

Below, see how many patients can potentially be prescribed buprenorphine by certified doctors in each state, compared to the number of people suffering from opiate-related addictions.

Alabama

For every 1,000 Alabama residents, 2.4 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 4.0
Estimated Opioid Abuse 6.4
BirminghamMontgomery
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Alaska

For every 1,000 Alaska residents, 0.3 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 6.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 6.5
FairbanksAnchorage
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Arizona

For every 1,000 Arizona residents, 8.6 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 3.4
Estimated Opioid Abuse 12.0
TucsonPhoenix
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Arkansas

For every 1,000 Arkansas residents, 9.9 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 1.7
Estimated Opioid Abuse 11.6
Fort SmithLittle Rock
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California

For every 1,000 California residents, 4.2 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 3.4
Estimated Opioid Abuse 7.6
Los AngelesSan Francisco
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Colorado

For every 1,000 Colorado residents, 0.8 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 3.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 4.0
DenverColorado Springs
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Connecticut

For every 1,000 Connecticut residents, 2.1 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 7.4
Estimated Opioid Abuse 9.5
BridgeportNew Haven
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Delaware

For every 1,000 Delaware residents, 5.7 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 5.1
Estimated Opioid Abuse 10.8
DoverWilmington
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Florida

For every 1,000 Florida residents, 3.5 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 4.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 7.7
JacksonvilleMiami
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Georgia

For every 1,000 Georgia residents, 1.6 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 3.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 4.8
AtlantaColumbus
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Hawaii

For every 1,000 Hawaii residents, 0.3 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 3.8
Estimated Opioid Abuse 4.1
Honolulu
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Idaho

For every 1,000 Idaho residents, 8.0 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 2.0
Estimated Opioid Abuse 10.0
Boise City
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Illinois

For every 1,000 Illinois residents, 3.8 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 2.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 6.0
ChicagoSpringfield
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Indiana

For every 1,000 Indiana residents, 9.8 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 2.8
Estimated Opioid Abuse 12.6
Fort WayneIndianapolis
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Iowa

For every 1,000 Iowa residents, 2.5 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 1.0
Estimated Opioid Abuse 3.5
Sioux CityDes Moines
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Kansas

For every 1,000 Kansas residents, 1.7 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 1.7
Estimated Opioid Abuse 3.4
Overland ParkWichita
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Kentucky

For every 1,000 Kentucky residents, 5.9 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 5.8
Estimated Opioid Abuse 11.7
LouisvilleLexington
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Louisiana

For every 1,000 Louisiana residents, 5.3 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 4.1
Estimated Opioid Abuse 9.4
New OrleansBaton Rouge
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Maine

Doctors in Maine had capacity to treat every resident addicted to opiates in 2012.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 13.3
Estimated Opioid Abuse 10.0
LewistonPortland
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Maryland

For every 1,000 Maryland residents, 2.0 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 7.9
Estimated Opioid Abuse 9.9
BaltimoreColumbia
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Massachusetts

For every 1,000 Massachusetts residents, 1.8 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 9.9
Estimated Opioid Abuse 11.7
BostonWorcester
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Michigan

For every 1,000 Michigan residents, 3.9 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 5.3
Estimated Opioid Abuse 9.2
DetroitGrand Rapids
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Minnesota

For every 1,000 Minnesota residents, 2.1 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 2.0
Estimated Opioid Abuse 4.1
Minneapolis
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Mississippi

For every 1,000 Mississippi residents, 4.8 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 3.8
Estimated Opioid Abuse 8.6
JacksonGulfport
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Missouri

For every 1,000 Missouri residents, 6.1 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 2.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 8.3
St. LouisKansas City
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Montana

For every 1,000 Montana residents, 4.6 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 2.6
Estimated Opioid Abuse 7.2
BillingsMissoula
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Nebraska

For every 1,000 Nebraska residents, 5.4 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 1.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 6.6
LincolnOmaha
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Nevada

For every 1,000 Nevada residents, 7.6 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 3.5
Estimated Opioid Abuse 11.1
RenoLas Vegas
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New Hampshire

For every 1,000 New Hampshire residents, 7.0 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 4.2
Estimated Opioid Abuse 11.2
NashuaManchester
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New Jersey

For every 1,000 New Jersey residents, 4.5 more people were addicted to opiates in 2012 than could be treated.
2012 People / 1,000 residents
Patient Capacity 5.8
Estimated Opioid Abuse 10.3
Atlantic CityNewark
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