Study Identifies Factors Leading to Discontinuation of Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Earlier considered as a scourge specific to military veterans, opioid addiction has today spread to each section of the society. Surprisingly, the crisis has largely engulfed teenagers, women or older adults. Addiction to opioids, including heroin, morphine and prescription pain pills, has led to severe physical and mental health problems among Americans, apart from creating a burgeoning and dangerous black market of illegal drugs on the streets.

Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that of the 20.5 million people aged 12 years or older who were diagnosed with substance use disorders, 2 million were addicted to prescription pain relievers and nearly 591,000 were hooked on heroin.

Getting rid of opioid addiction is tricky due to the involvement of medication. Additionally, opioid addiction recovery treatment requires long-term engagement in therapy for its success, which many fail to follow. Disengagement from treatment has become a norm in people undergoing recovery from an addiction to opioid drugs.

Until recently, a majority of people addicted to prescription pain relievers were treated with buprenorphine. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment has pointed out that many patients undergoing the treatment process tend to give up midway owing to various reasons, such as unemployment, belonging to a particular race or an acute hepatitis C infection.

What causes disengagement from opioid addiction treatment

According to the study by the researchers from the Boston University (BU), individuals with opioid use disorder are more likely to disengage from treatment programs if they are black or Hispanic, unemployed, or have hepatitis C. Buprenorphine – Subutex and Suboxone – is the most widely used drug for the treatment of opioid addiction due to its efficacy in reducing the rates of heroin and prescription opioid use. Additionally, it reduces the chances of “risky behaviors” that are associated with development of co-morbidities such as HIV or viral hepatitis infection.

As part of the study, the researchers evaluated more than 1,200 patients treated at office-based addiction treatment (OBAT) program between 2002 and 2014 to identify the patient-specific factors associated with retention in the treatment program for longer than one year. Factors such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, education level, employment, infection with hepatitis C virus, co-morbid psychiatric conditions, and prior or current use of drugs or alcohol were specifically evaluated.

Highlighting some important disparities in treatment outcomes (especially racial/ethnic), the study observed, “Older age, female, and co-morbid psychiatric diagnosis were associated with greater odds of treatment retention beyond one year, patients who were black or Hispanic, unemployed, and had evidence of hepatitis C viral infection were associated with decreased odds of treatment retention beyond one year.”

The study plays a key role in understanding the potential of opioid agonist buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction at a time when Americans are fighting a tough battle against prescription drug abuse. The study is expected to open newer avenues of treating opioid addiction, apart from encouraging patients to complete the recovery program.

Treating opioid addiction through effective therapeutic interventions

Like any other addiction, opioid abuse is also a brain disease that needs to be treated immediately. Prescriptions for opioid medications written by doctors has resulted in unprecedented level of opioid addiction in the country. While institutions at the federal level are making efforts to address the issue by sharing guidelines on the nature and extent of prescription to physicians, it is important to identify alternate therapeutic interventions that are more effective.

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