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[Irish Medical Times] ED interventions can improve treatment for opioid dependence. (12 May 2015)

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Buprenorphine is a medication for opioid use disorder that decreases withdrawal symptoms, craving, and opioid use.

Among opioid-dependent patients presenting for emergency care, treatment with buprenorphine initiated in the emergency department (ED), compared with a brief intervention and referral, significantly increased the likelihood of receiving formal addiction treatment, reduced self-reported illicit opioid use, and decreased use of inpatient addiction treatment services, but did not significantly decrease the rates of urine samples that tested positive for opioids or of HIV risk, according to a study in the April 28 issue of JAMA.

Dependence on prescription opioids and heroin is a major public health problem that is increasing in the US and internationally. Opioid agonist treatment, including methadone and buprenorphine, is the most effective treatment.

Patients with opioid dependence are at increased risk of adverse health consequences and often seek medical care in EDs. Currently, the primary option available to the ED for opioid dependence is referral to addiction treatment services. The introduction of buprenorphine/naloxone may provide ED physicians the opportunity to initiate effective medication treatment in conjunction with a brief intervention and referral, according to background information in the article.

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