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When someone lives through an opioid overdose, taking the medication buprenorphine lowers their risk of death if they OD again, according to new research.
Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat opioid use disorder. Researchers linked receiving it after an overdose with a 62% reduction in risk of death in a subsequent opioid overdose.
The medication is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, yet fewer than 1 in 20 individuals studied received buprenorphine after a nonfatal opioid overdose, according to the study.
“Within the health care system, we need to expand availability and use of buprenorphine in general medical settings, including emergency departments and telehealth visits, and to continue working to reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder and medication treatment more broadly,” said lead researcher Hillary Samples, assistant professor at the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Brunswick, N.J.
She and her colleagues used nationwide data on Medicare disability beneficiaries between 18 and 64 years of age who received inpatient or emergency treatment for nonfatal opioid overdose between 2008 and 2016.
The analysis examined treatment patterns after a nonfatal overdose.
The researchers estimated the relationship of buprenorphine medication and psychosocial services with overdose risk in the following year.
The authors said their findings highlight a need to initiate treatment after nonfatal overdoses. These events are strong risk factors for repeat overdose and also death, they said.
“Interventions that focus specifically on disadvantaged groups are needed to address disparities in treatment access,” Samples said in a Rutgers news release. “This is particularly important for patients with disabilities who potentially face greater barriers to care, like transportation difficulties or scheduling challenges related to individual or caregiver obligations at home and work.”
In 2021, more than 105,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States, largely due to opioids, according to data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
Study findings were recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has more on buprenorphine.
SOURCE: Rutgers University–New Brunswick, news release, March 24, 2023
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