Just One Counseling Session in the ER Can Help Reduce Opioid Misuse

Just One Counseling Session in the ER Can Help Reduce Opioid Misuse

A single 30-minute session with a trained therapist during an emergency room visit can motivate people who misused prescription opioid painkillers to reduce their use, a new study concludes.

In the six months after their ER visit, patients were less likely to misuse opioid drugs, UPI reports.

They also reduced risky behavior that could lead to an opioid overdose. In contrast, a group of similar patients who did not receive counseling did not have as much of a drop in opioid misuse and risky behavior.

The therapists conducting the counseling sessions used a technique called motivational interviewing, which helps people understand the risks they face from drug use. They learn about the factors that can increase that risk, such as drinking alcohol or taking other drugs such as benzodiazepines while they are taking painkillers. The technique is designed to help people increase their desire and commitment to change their behavior.

The study included 204 adult patients who had reported opioid misuse in the past three months. They were randomly assigned to receive motivational interviewing by a therapist, along with standard care, or standard educational care alone.

Patients who had a motivational interview had a 40.5 percent drop in risky behavior, and a 50 percent reduction in non-medical use of opioids after six months. In contrast, among those receiving standard educational care, 14.7 percent had a reduction in risky behavior, and 39.5 percent had a decrease in non-medical use of opioids.

The findings are published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“It’s very promising that we see a reduction in risky behavior with this brief, one-time intervention, among people who weren’t seeking treatment for their opioid use but had a history of non-medical use of these drugs,” lead researcher Dr. Amy Bohnert said in a news release. “Further research is needed to understand if this leads to longer term impact on health.”

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