CORRECTION (3/22/2019): Several numbers in this blog have been updated to correct inaccurate weighting of the variance estimates. The corrected numbers below show very small changes in the percentages of youth who received treatment. The findings about the persistent gap between white youth and youth of color who receive drug addiction treatment remain unchanged.
Only a small percentage of youth who report pain reliever (including opioid) abuse or dependence receive addiction treatment, and youth of color are significantly less likely to receive treatment than their white peers. According to Child Trends’ analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, this gap between white youth and youth of color age 21 and under has persisted almost every year since 2002, when opioid prescription deaths began to rise. As of 2016, 16.1 percent of white youth who abused pain relievers received treatment, compared to 16.7 percent in 2002. Just 9.5 percent of youth of color who abused pain relievers received treatment in 2016—a 4.3 percentage point drop from 2002 (when 13.8 percent received treatment) and persistently lower than their white counterparts.
In the Child Trends analysis, youth of color includes black, Hispanic, Native American, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Asian, and multiracial youth; these groups were combined due to small sample sizes, which is regrettable since each group’s experiences in attempting to access treatment are different.