“It’s the one medication that’s approved for use in adolescents, and it’s underused in facilities taking care of kids with the most severe opioid use disorder,” study co-author Dr. Todd Korthuis of Oregon Health & Science University said in a news release. “It’s hard to imagine getting adolescents with opioid use disorder off fentanyl without buprenorphine.”
The researchers surveyed U.S. treatment centers that serve adolescents, posing as the aunt or uncle of a 16-year-old seeking treatment after a non-fatal fentanyl overdose. Just 39 of the 160 residential treatment facilities contacted said they offered buprenorphine.
The one in eight residential treatment facilities offering full access to buprenorphine for teens compares to nearly two-thirds of adult treatment facilities that have it. The article notes that the findings are particularly concerning because if adolescents cannot access buprenorphine at residential treatment centers, they are unlikely to access it elsewhere. Just 10.6% offered buprenorphine initiation and continued treatment. By contrast, 25% of facilities offered equine therapy, which is not supported by evidence. More than one-third offered access to 12-step programs.