NIH study finds teens who experience opioid overdose do not receive proper follow-up treatments

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study maintains most teens treated for an opioid overdose do not receive evidence-based follow-up treatments and have high rates of recurrent overdoses.

Officials said the findings stem from an analysis of more than four million Medicaid records, noting nonfatal opioid overdoses offer a critical window for intervention in young people who have never received a diagnosis of opioid use disorder (OUD).

The work was published in JAMA Pediatrics and funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the California Behavioral Health Center of Excellence.

Researchers identified more than 3,600 youth aged 13-22 who experienced nonfatal overdoses and remained continually enrolled in Medicaid for at least 30 days after the overdose.

It was determined less than one-third of those individuals received any timely addiction treatment after an overdose, and only one in 54 received the OUD medications buprenorphine, naltrexone, or methadone.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Use and Prevention has issued recommendations to improve access to medication-assisted treatment for adolescents and young adults with OUD.

Probable obstacles to treatment include a lack of pediatricians familiar with treating opioid overdose and addiction, a lack of treatment facilities accepting youth and offering pharmacotherapy, and multiple hurdles faced in finding treatment centers that accept Medicaid.