When a person has an opioid use disorder, he or she might end up in the emergency room for a variety of reasons. If abusing prescription opioids, doctor shopping for another source of the medication is one possibility. There are also health risks associated with opioid addiction, one of the most serious of which is an overdose. These health risks may land a person in the emergency department.

Turning these patients away or giving them minimal care are both possibilities, but they may not be the right choice. One recent study concludes that the emergency department (ED) might be one of the most cost-effective places to begin opioid addiction treatment. 

The Rise in ED Visits Related to Opioid Use

Between 2005 and 2014, there was a 99.4 percent increase in opioid-related visits to the ED. Over this same period, there was also a 64.1 percent increase in ED visits that resulted in inpatient hospital stays. Currently, just 10 percent of the people who need addiction treatment services are receiving that care. Yet, the ED might be one of the best places to initiate care because so many people with opioid use disorder are walking through the doors.

EDs are limited in the number of opioids that they can administer to patients (one day's medication for up to 72 hours) to relieve withdrawal symptoms as a patient arranges for treatment. However, an ED may be the best place to begin cost-effective addiction treatment with rapid referrals and outreach.

Study Reveals Cost-Effectiveness of ED Opioid Addiction Treatment

A study released by Yale researchers and published in the journal Addiction concludes that buprenorphine is the most cost-effective treatment for patients who are seen in the ED for opioid-related matters. 

Researchers studied the results of ED patients who were either given buprenorphine and a referral for ongoing treatment or just a brief intervention in the ED with a standard referral for treatment. The study concluded that buprenorphine was more effective in engaging patients as well as a more cost-effective addiction treatment. 

The cost of buprenorphine treatment was an average of $1,752. This is compared to $1,805 for a brief intervention and a referral that costs an average of $1,977. The buprenorphine group was found to be twice as likely to enroll in an addiction treatment program. They also used fewer opioids within 30 days of the ED visit than the other two groups. 

Tablet with the words opioid epidemic displayed.

Buprenorphine and Opioid Addiction Treatment

Buprenorphine is a long-acting opioid medication that has uses for pain management as well as the treatment of opioid use disorder. When buprenorphine is used as opioid addiction treatment, it plays a role in managing withdrawal symptoms as well as the strong cravings that can come with these powerful drugs. 

Buprenorphine is one of the drugs most used in medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for opioid use disorder. The drug still interacts on the brain's opioid receptors but has a built-in ceiling that prevents a high and abuse. It also has the benefit of blocking other interactions on the brain. Most patients will use MAT until they can be gradually and safely weaned off of opioids entirely. 

If you or any of your loved ones are struggling with opioid addiction, The Recovery Village can help with its comprehensive addiction treatment programs that include MAT, the rehab program that best suits your needs, and aftercare. Contact us now to speak with someone about admissions and discuss your options for an addiction treatment program that will help you break free from opioids. 

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Opioid Addiction Treatment: ERs on the Frontlines
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