Self-Help Groups And Medication Use In Opioid Addiction Treatment: A National Analysis

Health Aff (Millwood). 2020 May;39(5):740-746. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2019.01021.


Self-help groups and medications (buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone) both play important roles in opioid addiction treatment. The relative use of these two treatment modalities has not been characterized in a national study. Using national treatment data, we found that self-help groups were rarely provided in conjunction with medication treatment: Among all adult discharges from opioid addiction treatment in the period 2015-17, 10.4 percent used both self-help groups and medications, 29.2 percent used only medications, 29.8 percent used only self-help groups, and 30.5 percent used neither self-help groups nor medications. Use of self-help groups without medication is most common in residential facilities, among those with criminal justice referrals, and among uninsured or privately insured patients, as well as in the South and West regions of the US. These subgroups may be important targets for future efforts to identify and overcome barriers to medication treatment and create multimodal paths to recovery.

Keywords: Addiction; Drug use; Health policy; Medicaid; Pharmaceuticals; Private health insurance; Uninsured; substance abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Methadone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Self-Help Groups


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone