Fewer than 30% of young people who survive an overdose of opioids receive addiction treatment in a timely manner afterward. These results were published in a new study published in the January 6 version of JAMA Pediatrics. Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine looked at data from over 3,500 youths.
Dr. Rachel H. Alinsky and her associates analyzed data collected from the Truven-IBM Watson Health MarketScan Medicaid claims database. They looked at claims by patients in 16 states from 2009-2015 and identified a sample of more than 4 million youth enrolled in Medicaid. All of them were 13-22 years of age.
The researchers used further data to identify those who had experienced a nonfatal opioid overdose. Next, they had to determine how many of these patients were able to receive treatment for opioid addiction within a month of the overdose.
When defining treatment for substance abuse, the researchers determined that they wanted to measure the number of patients who were receiving substance abuse treatment. This includes counseling and/or medications to control cravings.
Summary of Research Findings
The research team found 3,791 youths who had experienced a nonfatal overdose.
• More than half of them were female (58.9%).
• The majority were non-Hispanic white youths.
• The median age was 18 years. (Half of the patients were younger and half were older.)
• Heroin was involved in slightly over one-quarter (26.4%) of the overdoses; 73.6% of the patients experienced an overdose with another opioid.
• The risk of a second overdose was higher among young people who had experienced a heroin overdose than those who overdosed on other opioids.
Referring to the young people who did receive at least 30 days’ of drug addiction treatment after their overdose, the majority (68.9%) did not receive any treatment within a month after their opioid overdose, 29.3% received only counseling, and 1.9% of patients received only medication.
Patients who had overdosed on heroin received less treatment across the board, with only 0.64% of youth in this group receiving substance abuse help.
More Follow-Through Needed for Treatment Referrals
What much of this data suggests is that there is a lack of follow-through on behalf of parents and medical professionals in getting teens and young adults enrolled in more effective treatment options. A medication and brief intervention alone rarely does the trick. Whereas finding appropriate treatment options may be difficult, there are many resources for treatment referrals available outside of the hospital community, such as private therapists, outpatient programs, recovery support groups and residential treatment facilities.