Several articles recently addressed a study which found that providing buprenorphine after an overdose significantly increased the likelihood of individuals accessing opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment.
The current protocol for paramedics and emergency departments in treating opioid overdose is to administer naloxone in order to reverse the effects of overdose. A recently published study showed that also providing buprenorphine immediately afterward reduced withdrawal discomfort and increased outpatient addiction follow-up care.
A separate article referenced data showing a nearly six-fold increase in patients accessing outpatient addiction treatment within 30 days of the overdose event.
These are highly encouraging finds which demonstrate the far-reaching effectiveness of medication-assistance in the treatment of opioid addiction. Saving a life through overdose reversal is obviously a critical benefit, but increasing motivation for follow-up treatment is a huge step in helping addicted individuals plug into a long-term solution.
Structured treatment which utilizes medication-assistance provides so much to those aspiring to face their addiction challenges. Naloxone, buprenorphine, and methadone have saved countless lives, and these medications have provided an unrivaled opportunity for those in opioid addiction to plot a new path in life.
A new study by the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin found that a patient’s length of treatment is directly tied to lower risk of overdose.
In particular, treating opioid addiction with medication for at least 60 days generated a 61% reduction in the incidence of overdose.
Numerous other studies over the last two decades have shown that positive outcomes are tied to longer duration in outpatient addiction treatment. Not only does greater length of time in treatment allow for physical stabilization with methadone or buprenorphine, but it provides each patient with time to develop improved coping skills and relapse prevention capability.
Higher levels of functioning are able to be achieved, such as gainful employment and improved parenting, when a patient is able to remain in addiction treatment for longer periods of time.
Marguerite Burns, who led the Wisconsin study, found that recovery success and overdose prevention are enhanced the longer that patients take medication over a 12 month period. Medication-assistance plays a key role in helping opioid addicted patients find long lasting recovery.
Impressively, the study was based on treatment outcomes recorded for 293,160 Medicaid patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder.
While it is fairly common knowledge these days, it bears repeating that fentanyl is leading to dramatic increases in drug overdose deaths. The Families Against Fentanyl group, using three years of CDC mortality data, recently concluded that fentanyl overdose had caused more deaths than the corona virus, automobile accidents, or suicide in the 18-45 age group.
Fentanyl is finding its way into other dangerous street drug combinations, and is consequently posing serious risks to both experienced and unexperienced users.
A December 2021 Wall Street Journal article mentioned that there were 100,000 fatal overdoses in the United States between April 2019 and April 2020. Fentanyl is making its way across the U.S. southern border smuggled in by Mexican drug cartels in a stream of drug trafficking that is yielding a constant challenge to U.S. law enforcement authorities.
Fortunately, community-based drug prevention programs across the country have begun including extensive discussions of the dangers of opioids and fentanyl as a common additive.
Opioid addiction in America will remain a chief concern for many more years to come. Securing local treatment and support has never been more important than it is right now.