The aims of the study are to review the current research on the association between access to medications for opioid use disorders (MOUD) and race, to identify gaps in research methods, and to propose new approaches to end racialized disparities in access to MOUD.
We conducted a literature review of English language peer-reviewed published literature from 2010 to 2021 to identify research studies examining the association between race and use of, or access to, MOUD.
We reviewed 21 studies related to access to MOUD for Black and White populations. Of the 21 studies, 16 found that Black individuals had lower use of, or access to, MOUD than White individuals, 2 found the opposite among patients in specialty addiction treatment, 1 found that the difference changed over time, and 2 found that distance to opioid treatment programs was shorter for Black residents than for White residents.
To improve future research, we recommend that researchers (1) be clearer on how race is conceptualized and interpreted; (2) explicitly evaluate the intersection of race and other factors that may influence access such as income, insurance status, and geography; (3) use measures of perceived racism, unconscious bias, and self-identified race; (4) collect narratives to better understand why race is associated with lower MOUD access and identify solutions; and (5) evaluate the effect of policies, programs, and clinical training on reducing racial disparities. A multitude of studies find that Black individuals have lower access to MOUD. Researchers must now identify effective solutions for reducing these disparities.