56% of Patients Seeking OUD Care Started Using Through Legal Prescription

More than 86% of 2.7 million people in the U.S. living with opioid use disorder do not receive medication for opioid use disorder treatment (MOUD). This treatment can reduce withdrawal symptoms, prevent overdoses and support long-term recovery.

New data from Bicycle Health, a virtual opioid use disorder provider, revealed details about the populations that do seek MOUD treatment.

While MOUD treatment alone cannot cure OUD, it can be a meaningful part of a comprehensive health plan that includes counseling and support. Common medications used for MOUD treatment include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.


“In most conversations about OUD, the people struggling are the ones whose voices are left out,” Scott Weiner, director of research at Bicycle Health, said in a statement. “Our goal with the ‘OUD Index’ is to better understand the diverse group impacted by this disease, so we can reduce stigma, educate the public and change the larger cultural conversation around OUD in our society.”

The findings, compiled using data on over 13,000 people who applied for the treatment in the second quarter of 2022, offer insight into ages, types of insurance, incidences of other mental illnesses and methods of introduction to opioids for people seeking treatment.

While applicants ranged in age from 20s to ages 65 or older, three-quarters of applicants were in their 30s or 40s, with an average age per applicant of 39.5 years old.


While less than 12% of applicants were in their 20s, the number of applicants in the age group has skyrocketed over time. The demographic increased by 106.5% year-over-year.

The state with the youngest average applicant was Georgia, with an average age per applicant of 34. The state with the oldest average applicant was Alabama, with an average age of 46.

Over 56% of applicants reported that their OUD started with a legal prescription. The first wave of opioid-related deaths began in the 90s, sparked by an increase in opioid prescriptions, according to the CDC.

Almost 16% of applicants reported that they did not have health insurance at the time of their application and over 94% of applicants reported not having a primary care physician.

Bicycle Health reported that around 12% of applicants reported a mental health disorder.

According to the National Institutes of Health, mental illness can increase the risk of OUD and can limit a person’s ability to make personal health care decisions. Less than a third of people with OUD and a co-occurring mental illness get treatment for their conditions.

Bicycle Health recently signed a deal with retail giant Albertsons to make buprenorphine extended-release injections, a type of medication-assisted treatment, available at 700 Albertsons Companies pharmacy locations across 17 states.

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