NIH-funded study finds many teen opioid overdose patients receive no follow-up

One of the factors in high rates of recurrent overdoses for teens, a new analysis funded by the National Institutes of Health discovered, is that most teens treated for an overdose receive no evidence-based follow-up treatments.

The study tracked more than 4 million Medicaid records from 2009 to 2015 for its assessment. From these, scientists identified more than 3,600 nonfatal overdose patients between ages 13-22 who remained continually enrolled in Medicaid for at least 30 days following the incident. Less than one-third of those received addiction treatment after their overdoses and only one in 54 received overdose medications buprenorphine, naltrexone or methadone. Such negligence was especially pervasive in the case of those who overdosed from heroin.

The researchers include members of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, the University of California at Los Angeles, the Children’s Hospital Association in Lenexa, Kansas, the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center. They cited recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Use and Prevention that called for improved access to medication-assisted treatment for adolescents and young adults diagnosed with opioid use disorder. Intervention, their findings suggested, are urgently needed to get youths treatment post-overdose.

In the research published in JAMA Pediatrics, however, the researchers also cited potential obstacles to treatment: lack of pediatricians familiar with treating addiction and opioid overdose, a lack of facilities for treating youth and which offer pharmacotherapy, as well as the trickiness of finding treatment centers that accept Medicaid.