Thousands of people suffering from opioid withdrawal arrive in hospital emergency rooms each year. The addicted patients are given medicine to treat withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, and often sent on their way with numbers to call regarding addiction treatment.
A new approach is being used in some E.R.s including Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. They are offering patients a dose of buprenorphine, one of three medicines approved to treat opioid addiction, on the spot.
Highland is one of a handful of hospitals across the U.S. initiating opioid addiction treatment from the E.R., guided by a 2015 Yale study.
That study found that addicted patients who were given buprenorphine in the E.R. were twice as likely to be in treatment a month later compared to those who were merely handed an informational pamphlet about addiction treatment.
“With a single E.R. visit we can provide 24 to 48 hours of withdrawal suppression, as well as suppression of cravings,” Dr. Andrew Herring, an emergency medicine specialist at Highland who runs the buprenorphine program, told The New York Times. “It can be this revelatory moment for people — even in the depth of crisis, in the middle of the night. It shows them there’s a pathway back to feeling normal.”
Since the study was first reported, hospital emergency departments in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, have also started offering buprenorphine.
Opioid overdoses killed nearly 50,000 people last year, according to the latest estimates.
Read more about the new approach at NY Times.com.
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