Methadone and buprenorphine reduce risk of death after opioid overdose

A National Institutes of Health-funded study found that treatment of opioid use disorder with either methadone or buprenorphine following a nonfatal opioid overdose is associated with significant reductions in opioid related mortality. The research, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was co-funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, both parts of NIH.

Study authors analyzed data from 17,568 adults in Massachusetts who survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014. Compared to those not receiving medication assisted treatment, opioid overdose deaths decreased by 59 percent for those receiving methadone and 38 percent for those receiving buprenorphine over the 12 month follow-up period. The authors were unable to draw conclusions about the impact of naltrexone due to small sample size, noting that further work is needed with larger samples. Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are three FDA-approved medications used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD).

Full story at drugabuse.org

Featured News: Methadone Appears Safe and Effective in Treating Fentanyl Addiction: Study

Methadone appears safe and effective in treating people who use fentanyl, suggests a study presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

“Highly potent fentanyl – often in combination with other substances including alcohol and benzodiazepines – is highly dangerous and responsible in large part for the enormous spike in preventable drug overdose deaths,” said lead researcher Andrew Stone, M.D., Medical Director of Discovery House CTC of Northern Rhode Island. “We conducted this study to see if medication-assisted treatment is effective in treating those who use fentanyl, given its unique properties and extreme potency.”

Stone and colleagues performed urine drug screens on patients admitted to a methadone maintenance treatment program over a 10-month period. Patients were screened for substances including illicit fentanyl, opiates and methadone. Those who tested positive for fentanyl when entering the program appeared to require a slightly higher dose of methadone to reach abstinence. The relapse rate for those who did not test positive for fentanyl was 15 percent, compared with 41 percent for those who tested positive. Most relapses while in treatment involved fentanyl, regardless of which substances were found in the initial drug screen. “The greater relapse rate may be due to the inability of methadone to completely block the ‘high’ users experience with fentanyl,” Dr. Stone said.

Full story at drugfree.org

Why are doctors underusing a drug to treat opioid addiction?

A drug approved for private physicians to treat opioid addiction is being underprescribed, and a survey of addiction specialists suggests that many of them are not willing to increase their use of it, despite an expanding opioid addiction epidemic in the United States, according to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Two opioid replacement medications are currently approved for opioid use disorder: methadone, which under federal law must be dispensed from authorized clinics, and buprenorphine, which can be used to treat opioid addiction in the privacy of a physician’s office, so long as the physician has the proper waivers.

Full story at Science Daily

Addiction Experts Object to Price’s Remarks on Medication-Assisted Treatment

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s description of medication-assisted treatment for addiction as “substituting one opioid for another” is inaccurate, according to addiction experts who have asked Price to “set the record straight.”

A letter to Price signed by almost 700 researchers and practitioners notes there is a substantial body of research showing that methadone and buprenorphine, also known as medication-assisted treatment, are effective in treating opioid addiction. These medications, which are opioids, have been the standard of care for addiction treatment for years, they wrote.

Full story of Tom Price’s description of medication-assisted treatment at drugfree.org

Addiction Experts Battle Stigma Attached to Medication-Assisted Treatment

Opioid addiction treatment experts say although the evidence is clear that medication-assisted treatment is the best way to tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic, there is still a stigma attached to using these medications.

Only a small percentage of the more than 4 million people who abuse prescription painkillers or heroin in the United States use one of these medications, methadone or buprenorphine, NPR reports. These treatments have been proven to reduce relapses and overdoses, the article notes.

While limited availability of these treatments is an issue, stigma around the use of addiction medications also prevents some people from using them, experts say.

Full story of medication-assisted treatment to tackle the opioid epidemic at drugfree.org