NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The number of opioid dependent patients in the country is now a major public health issue. A Yale study and a legislative effort aims to treat and prevent addiction.
It’s estimated 100 million people in the U.S. need pain medication, but those who are addicted or overdose on it find themselves in the emergency department.
“Similar to any other chronic-relapsing disease in the emergency department, we screen and we often initiate treatment,” said Dr. Gail D’Onofrio.
She and Dr. David Fiellin did more than that. The Yale School of Medicine researchers offered them an opportunity to sign up for a multi-intervention study. They found that those treated with buprenorphine, brand name Suboxone, responded best.
“Not only did we find that twice as many patients who received the buprenorphine went into treatment and stayed there for 30 days, we also found there was a significantly less amount of patients who were in any inpatient services,” said Dr. D’Onofrio.
The drug also addressed the patient’s withdrawals and cravings.
“I don’t think they realized how effective the medications were and how readily available the medications could be for them,” explained Dr. Fiellin. “Essentially stop using the opiates in such a brief period of time, over usually six to 12 hours, they were able to stop using opiates.”
Prevention is just as important as treatment. Drug companies have come up with abuse deterrent formulation medications, or ADF’s.
“What this is for is to prevent people from abusing the drug,” said Jill Spineti with the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, adding that ADF’s also allow those who live with chronic pain get what they need.
“Certainly people can still take the drug as it’s meant to be, but usually with drug abusers they want to get high in a different way, so they can’t crush it, they can’t snort it, they can’t break it down to powder, they can’t inject as heroin,” she stressed.
Advocates are lobbying for the passage of a bill this legislative session so that ADF’s are covered by insurance in Connecticut. It was passed by the state Senate over the weekend and supporters are pushing for a full House vote before the session ends.
Meanwhile, the Yale study also found those treated with buprenorphine were more likely to get counseling and address their addiction. The hope is that more primary care physicians, community health, and HIV clinics will help expand patient access.