More than two in five people receiving buprenorphine, a drug commonly used to treat opioid addiction, are also given prescriptions for other opioid painkillers - and two-thirds are prescribed opioids after their treatment is complete, a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study suggests.
The findings, published in the journal Addiction, demonstrate the need for greater resources devoted to medication-assisted treatment, a common clinical tool to address the epidemic.
The idea behind medication-assisted treatment is that patients are given low-dose opioids that produce some of the effects of opioids while staving off physical withdrawal symptoms.
The low-dose opioids produce weaker effects than drugs such as oxycodone or heroin, which come with the risk of addiction and overdose. With medication-assisted treatment, rigorous studies have shown that patients are more able to remain healthy and productive members of society.
An article in Medical News Today brought the stuidy to light in a recent article.
Increases in prescription opioid use over the past two decades have led to an epidemic of addiction, injuries and deaths in the United States. In 2013, providers wrote nearly 250 million opioid prescriptions, enough to supply every adult in the United States with a bottle of pills.
Recent federal efforts have tried to improve the availability of medication-assisted treatment, so providing ongoing professional education and support to these providers will be important.