People addicted to opioids treated in a hospital emergency department do better when they receive medication to reduce opioid cravings, researchers report.
“The ED [emergency department] visit is an ideal opportunity to identify patients with opioid use disorder and initiate treatment and direct referral, similar to best practices for other diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes,” said study co-leader Dr. Gail D’Onofrio in a Yale University news release.
D’Onofrio is chair of emergency medicine at the university.
The study looked at 290 people addicted to opioids who went to an emergency department. They received one of three treatments: a referral to addiction treatment services; a short interview including discussion of treatment; or a brief interview and the medication buprenorphine.
The patients given medication also continued treatment with their primary care doctor.
After two months of follow-up, patients who received buprenorphine were more likely to be in formal addiction treatment and to report reduced opioid use than those in the other two groups.
The United States is currently in the throes of an unprecedented opioid epidemic. More than six out of 10 overdose deaths involve opioid drugs, and 91 Americans die every day from prescription opioids or heroin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Deaths from prescription painkillers — such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) — as well as heroin and methadone have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the CDC.
The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on opioid addiction.