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Treating Opiate Addiction as an Emergency

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In recent years, public health officials, policy makers and hospital administrators have been exploring new policy protocols to help combat the issue of widespread opioid addiction in United States.

According to recent reports, the Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut may have found a non-evasive, successful method to address this important public health issue. The Yale-New Haven Hospital began treating opioid addiction as a chronic condition, much like high blood pressure or diabetes.

A New Kind of Opiate Treatment

As a general practice, if a patient is admitted to an emergency room for one specific condition, a hospital will also begin treating other non-related conditions, if necessary. The Yale-New Haven Hospital has applied this practice to emergency room patients who are also addicted to opioids, such as oxycodone and other prescription painkillers.

Success rates indicated by the Yale-New Haven Hospital’s study showed that a light intervention, when combined with medication, was incredibly helpful to those who may not seek treatment on their own. Patients who were admitted into the hospital’s emergency room – and showed signs of opioid addiction – received buprenorphine to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, a 10-minute counseling session, and a referral to a specific treatment facility.

According to reports by the hospital, almost 75 percent of patients who received this protocol were in treatment after 30 days. In comparison, 37 percent of patients who only received a referral to a facility sought treatment.

Impressive Numbers

In all, 329 patients were part of the hospital’s study, which showed a strong correlation between patients receiving buprenorphine at the time of admittance into the emergency room and the likelihood of seeking treatment once discharged.

Supporting Yale-New Haven’s findings, a study released in 2014 by Medstar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore also suggested that the most effective method to assist hospital patients with opioid addiction was, in fact, a combination of medication, a brief counseling intervention, and a referral to a treatment facility.

Suboxone is Preferred

Although the findings by Yale-New Haven Hospital are promising, prescribing buprenorphine is not the easiest process for doctors.

Typically, doctors must undergo special training with the drug, can only treat a limited number of patients, and must follow strict government guidelines in reporting. That said, it is promising that hospitals are considering treating opioid addiction the way it should be – as an emergency.

 

 

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