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Hospitals can do more for survivors of opioid overdose, suggests study

The United States’ opioid crisis has cost the nation billions in terms of lost productivity, health care services, increased criminal activities and untimely loss of precious lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 33,000 people died of drug overdose in 2015, which included prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl. While the overdose cases causing death get reported, many nonfatal ones are swept under the carpet. According to clinicians and researchers, it is important to look beyond the fatal incidents. Nonfatal overdoses could be an indication of illegal practices such as over prescription and doctor shopping.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, states that interventions to address addiction are neither happening timely nor sufficient. Julie Donohue, associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh, used the cumulative data from Medicaid patients in Pennsylvania, during 2008-2013, to look into prescription opioid use and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) before and after overdoses. Confirmation of MAT was through documents showing that the patient had been administered one of the three FDA-approved drugs, methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone, for treating opioid addiction.

A few takeaways from the study are listed below:

No constraint on prescription opioid even after overdose: A nonfatal overdose should have been a deterrent. However, that does not seem to be the case. A previous study concluded that there were high rates of opioid prescription even for those who had an opioid overdose but managed to survive.

Underuse of MAT: It was observed that in incidents of heroin overdoses, the filling of prescription opioids decreased by 3.5 percent but correspondingly, MAT treatment, considered to be the best for opioid addiction, increased by 3.6 percent only. Unfortunately, only 33 percent of heroin overdose survivors and 15 percent of prescription opioid overdose survivors were treated with naltrexone, buprenorphine or methadone within six months of the overdose.

Lack of screening facilities: Most hospitals lack proper screening facilities for those who are at risk of abuse and dependence. Hospitals also lack in skill training and active follow-ups. According to Dr. Corey Waller, senior medical director for the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs, the medical personnel “lack basic knowledge”. He cited his experience of receiving less than one hour of instruction while being treated for an addiction as a resident.

Failure to understand psychological ramifications: All opioids affect an individual psychologically by changing the brain chemistry and affecting their decision-making abilities but hospitals do not take it into account. According to Waller, the health care professionals treat patients as subjects and not humans. Even in emergency care settings, doctors are more interested in the toxicology report and fail to understand the psychological underpinnings.

Saying no to drugs

A study in 2015 had indicated that individuals who received a dose of buprenorphine and Naloxone to take home were more likely to continue treatment than those who received handouts with contact of addiction treatment services and allowed to go after a 10-15 minute interview. The advantage of such a system is that it encourages recovery while taking off the load from emergency.

If you or your loved one is battling an addiction to drugs, whether prescription painkillers or stimulants or any other, it is important to seek help. The Florida Drug Addiction Helpline can assist you in locating the finest addiction treatment centers in Florida that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline 855-982-2401 or chat online to know more about credible drug rehabilitation centers in Florida.

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