By By Robert Preidt Reporter HealthDay, health day reporter
FRIDAY, May 13, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A potentially life-saving drug that reduces the risk of overdose is being prescribed to less than half of Americans being treated for opioid addiction, a new study finds.
This underuse of buprenorphine “equates to giving people with advanced cancer a less aggressive treatment,” said lead researcher Dr. Laura Bierut. She is a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“It seems obvious to many of us that we should give the most aggressive and effective treatments to those who are most seriously ill,” Bierut added in a university press release.
For the study, Bierut and his colleagues analyzed health insurance data on about 180,000 people nationwide treated for an opioid use disorder from 2011 to 2016. Only 47% of they were prescribed buprenorphine, and the rate was even lower (about 30%) for opioid users. who also abuse other substances such as alcohol, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines or cocaine.
“It’s concerning that the majority of people who abuse multiple substances don’t seem to be getting the life-saving drugs they really need,” said study co-author Dr. Kevin Xu, resident physician in the Department of Psychiatry. of the University.
The data analyzed by the researchers is a few years old, Bierut said. “But we believe this information can be extrapolated to what is happening now, as even more people using opioids – or using opioids as well as other substances – are showing up in emergency departments today. problem has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.
Nearly 107,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses from early 2021 to early 2022, compared to 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are a number of possible reasons for the low rate of buprenorphine prescriptions among people being treated for opioid addiction, according to Xu.
Buprenorphine itself is an opioid, which can make doctors reluctant to prescribe it to people with an opioid addiction. Buprenorphine can be taken at home and does not require daily trips to a clinic, but this lack of supervision could also affect decisions about its prescription. Another reason may be insufficient data on the effectiveness of the drug in people who abuse multiple substances.
But such worries seem unfounded, Xu said.
“Buprenorphine appears to be a safe opioid,” he noted. “It is specifically designed to be different from other opioid medications in that it will not cause the user to stop breathing, which virtually all other types of opioids will. This means it can be taken safely at home, which is very helpful, even essential, for healing.”
SOURCE: University of Washington School of Medicine, press release, May 10, 2022
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