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Buprenorphine Given in ER Benefits Opioid Dependent

Works better than simple referrals in opioid-dependent patients, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, April 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A comparison of three treatments for opioid dependence indicates that patients given buprenorphine in the emergency department do better than those given only referrals. The research was published in the April 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Gail D'Onofrio, M.D., chair of emergency medicine at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues set out to test buprenorphine's effectiveness in a study of 329 emergency department patients. The researchers note that patients with opioid dependence often seek emergency medical care for overdose or abscesses. Afterwards, they're usually referred to addiction treatment.

Investigators divided the patients into three groups. One group received a list of available services, while another got a motivational consultation and referral. A third group received a brief intervention and treatment with buprenorphine that was continued in primary care. Patients given buprenorphine had the best outcomes and were less likely to need in-patient treatment at a residential facility, the researchers found.

"The patients who received emergency department-initiated medication and referral for ongoing treatment in primary care were twice as likely as the others to be engaged in treatment 30 days later," D'Onofrio said in a Yale news release. "They were less likely to use illicit opioids of any kind." The researchers noted their findings underscore previous studies that examined the benefits of buprenorphine for opioid dependence.

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