May 24, 2023 – The odds of engaging in telehealth treatment for addiction, however, increased from 7.4 percent in 2019 to 45.9 percent after the start of the pandemic.

In addition to the general increase, the researchers found that those aged 18 to 34 had the sharpest increases in telehealth use. Further, there was no evidence that disparities in addiction treatment were exacerbated, leading researchers to conclude that telehealth could be effective in this type of care.

“It was comforting to know that there was increased utilization even with the pandemic shift to telehealth for some addiction care,” said co-author Asma Asyyed, MD, KPNC chair of addiction medicine and recovery services, in a press release. “We know in addiction medicine that when patients initiate and engage with care they have better outcomes and are less likely to relapse. With opioid use, relapse can be deadly. This study starts the conversation to understand the impact that virtual care has and helps us design a hybrid in-person and telehealth addiction medicine program.”

Prior research has noted success associated with using telehealth to treat addiction disorders, particularly OUD.