Giving buprenorphine to patients addicted to opioids who are treated in the emergency room is more effective than simply providing them with a referral, a new study finds. Patients given buprenorphine were less likely to need in-patient treatment at a residential facility, HealthDay reports.
Buprenorphine helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The study included 300 people who came to the emergency department (ED) for treatment related to prescription opioid or heroin use. The researchers compared three treatments for opioid addiction. One group received a list of available services, a second group received a motivational consultation and a referral, and the third group received a brief intervention and treatment with buprenorphine, which was continued in primary care.
“The patients who received ED-initiated medication and referral for ongoing treatment in primary care were twice as likely as the others to be engaged in treatment 30 days later,” lead researcher Gail D’Onofrio said in a news release. “They were less likely to use illicit opioids of any kind.”
Typically, emergency department doctors treating patients addicted to opioids “take care of the immediate concern, but don’t treat the underlying problem,” D’Onofrio said.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A study published by Yale researchers last October found buprenorphine maintenance therapy is more effective than detoxification for patients being treated for prescription opioid dependence. The researchers said primary care doctors do not have evidence-based guidelines to decide between the two treatments.