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Health System Fails Opioid Overdose Patients, New Study Suggests

opioid overdoseNew research suggests that there is a need for medical professionals to intervene and initiate the rehabilitation of opioid drug overdose patients. In a study of Pennsylvania Medicaid recipients, the results revealed that there was a non-significant reduction in patients who returned to opioid use after a nonfatal overdose episode. This highlights the lack or the inability of medical professionals to take advantage of the rare opportunity to get treatment underway.

The results showed that there was a decline of a mere 10 percent of overdose patients, within a six month period after the hospitalization, who refilled opioid prescriptions. Within the same time frame, a 12 percent increase was found in the number of patients receiving medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, which is the use of antidotes to opioids, including buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Despite the positive outcomes, the statistics are disappointingly low.

The fact remains that despite a life-threatening event such as an overdose, the disease of addiction is still present in the sufferer. Death cannot even shake the addiction out of most abusers, as fear of withdrawals and pain prevail. Thus, the need for medical professionals to capitalize on the present opportunity to begin to administer and enroll overdose patients with treatment. Most patients who have survived an opioid overdose unsurprisingly do not remain under hospital care to the full extent of their primary treatment. This only further complicates the ability of the hospital to initiate any type of ongoing rehabilitation.

Not only is patient participation affecting the enrollment of overdose survivors, the lack of responsive communication between hospital departments and centers contribute to the relatively low results of enrollment. What often can take days or weeks for admission ultimately fails the opioid abuser and reopens the door to another fix.

To combat the missed opportunities, possible solutions include warm hand-offs to treatment facilities from the hospitals, as well as a trend initiated in New England, where overdose patients in the emergency room are administered buprenorphine to head off treatment. In any effort, nonfatal overdose patients could greatly benefit from treatment upon initial admission into the ER with hopes that it could lead to a road of rehabilitation, and not further abuse of opioids.  

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