Opioid Use Disorder: Primary Care Must Improve Its Management

The Importance of Education for Frontline Practitioners when Treating OUD Patients, Reinforced

A study of patient outcomes in a large general healthcare system found almost 20% of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) died at some point in the 4 years following care. The results suggest a much higher mortality risk for patients with OUD in the general care setting, compared with patients in addiction specialty clinics. The report, authored by researchers from University of California, Los Angeles, concludes, "The alarmingly high morbidity and mortality among OUD patients revealed in the present study challenge healthcare systems to find new and innovative ways to expand evidence-based strategies for OUD in a variety of settings." They additionally suggest the need for more and better education of primary care practitioners in the identification and management of patients at risk for opioid abuse and misuse. The findings are reported in Journal of Addiction Medicine.

In prior studies of patient outcomes in addiction specialty programs, the risk of death among patients being treated for OUD was 4 to 6 times greater than the general population. But this study of the health records of more than 2500 patients suggests a much higher mortality risk—more than 10 times that in the general population—in patients with OUD who are treated in the general healthcare system. Study author Yih-Ing Hser, PhD, observed, "In the United States, healthcare providers outside specialty substance use disorders treatment settings have not traditionally been adequately equipped to identify and address patients [with] addictions."

Read more about the study’s conclusions.

Read the journal abstract.

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