Research reveals buprenorphine in the ER could be game-changer in opioid epidemic

Emergency departments can play a big role in reducing overdose deaths, according to new research published in JAMA Network Open. Researchers analyzed 464 patients with opioid use disorder. They found that ER patients are not only very open to accepting buprenorphine treatment (86%), but they’re also nearly two times more likely to stay with the treatment compared to those who are not given the medication in the ER. The administrtion of buprenorphine for opioid overdose patients in the ER is part of the new Emily’s Hope Post-Overdose Response Team plan.

Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist used to treat addiction to opioids, such as heroin, oxycodone or fentanyl. Despite the proven benefits of buprenorphine, it hasn’t yet become the standard of care in most EDs. 

With the United States battling its deadliest drug epidemic in history, researchers note that healthcare professionals should pay attention to this study.

“There is an urgent need to roll out large-scale interventions to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths,” the study said.

Nationally, only 10% of people with opioid use disorder are currently receiving treatment. However, the study’s revelation of the high acceptance rate for buprenorphine suggests that the majority are willing to engage in treatment when it’s easily accessible and conveniently offered.