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Some insurance companies deny coverage for opioid abuse treatment, according to an Oklahoma addiction specialist. Dr. Charles Shaw, who has treated more than 100,000 patients for drug and/or alcohol abuse over the past 23 years, says today most of his patients are addicted to opioids. Many of them are young.

He finds it difficult to get insurance companies to agree to cover extended stays in substance abuse treatment programs. This is unfortunate, he says, because longer stays in treatment lead to higher success rates. “There’s no question—the longer you stay the better,” he told

He finds insurance companies are more likely to cover alcohol treatment than opioid treatment. If companies do cover opioid treatment, it generally is for only several days, which he says is not enough.

Nicole Amend, a spokeswoman with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, the state’s largest health insurance company, said it covers extended stays in drug treatment centers “when medically necessary.” In a statement, Amend said, “When seeking treatment for an addiction, behavioral health coverage is not dependent on either the member’s age or the type of substance addiction. However, the type of substance and the member’s age may impact the appropriate treatment option available.”

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