Research Finds Treatment for Opioid Abuse Needs to be Long-Term

Feb 24, 2017

New research out of Johns Hopkins University has found that more than forty percent of people receiving medication for opioid addiction were also given prescriptions for other opioid painkillers during the time of treatment.

The researchers looked at pharmacy claims for more than 38,000 new buprenorphine users who filled prescriptions between 2006 and 2013 in 11 states. Buprenorphine is a drug used to treat opioid addiction.

They found that 43 percent of patients who received buprenorphine filled an opioid prescription during treatment and 67 percent filled an opioid prescription during the year following buprenorphine treatment. Most patients continued to receive similar amounts of opioids before and after buprenorphine treatment.

They were not able to examine patients’ use of or access to illegal opioids like heroin.

The authors say the results are startling, but consistent with other research that shows many users returned abusing opioids after treatment. Medication-assisted treatment is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to treat opioid addiction, but experts say treatment programs aren’t enough and that patients need stable, ongoing care indefinitely.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.