The results of a new study conducted by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) indicate that 75% of patients in an inpatient addiction treatment program were admitted using more than one substance. These findings imply that focusing mainly on opioids may not be effective if physicians overlook the complex reality that makes up each client’s substance use situation.
The researchers enrolled 486 people who had been seen by an addiction medicine consult service while being hospitalized at OHSU Hospital. The patients were in the hospital from 2015-2018. They filled out surveys early in their hospital stay and again 30-90 days after they were discharged.
Researchers found the majority of the participants in this OHSU addiction study were involved with more than one drug. After receiving inpatient addiction treatment, the participants were using fewer drugs.
Approximately 40% of the participants stated they had stopped using at least one substance for at least 30 days after they left the hospital. This type of result is not usually tracked within health care systems.
Caroline King, M.P.H., the lead author of the study, is a health systems researcher. She explained that multiple substance use among patients is “the norm.” It was important, she stated, because patients using multiple drugs may need more support than those using one substance.
Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
The standard treatment for Opioid Use Disorder is to use medications such as Suboxone or buprenorphine. Each of them works to bring brain function to a more normal level by acting on the part of the brain targeted by heroin and prescription opioids.
However, if a client is also using stimulants, this class of drugs will affect the user’s brain in a different way than opioids. Senior author Honora Englander, MD, points out that if a client is using methamphetamine is only treated for their opioid addiction, the full impact of harms from their drug abuse is not being addressed.
Hospitalization a Time to Offer Substance Abuse Treatment
The researchers stated that their findings support earlier studies that showed hospitalization is a time when substance abuse treatment should be offered to patients. This help should be offered even when a patient is admitted seeking treatment for other medical conditions.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.