Report: Young people surviving opioid overdoses not getting treatment

Report: Young people surviving opioid overdoses not getting treatment

A study of young people who survive opioid overdoses has found that only about a third of them receive any follow-up treatment for their addiction.

As reported in JAMA Pediatrics by Rachel Alinsky, an adolescent medicine and addiction medicine fellow at Johns’ Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, of the more than 3,600 overdose survivors aged 13-22, nearly 68.9 percent did not receive any kind of addiction treatment; 29.3 received only behavioral health services, and only 1.9 percent received any medical treatments for opioid use disorder.

Alinsky wanted to find out if young people were getting the help they needed to kick their opioid addiction, with the knowledge that once a person has an opioid overdose, they are more likely to die if they have another one.

Her research showed that heroin accounted for nearly 25 percent of the overdoses. The remainder involved opioids, most often prescription pain killers. Of them, less than 20 percent of the overdose survivors received a diagnosis of opioid use disorder. Additionally, few, the study found, received what experts regard as the standard treatment for opioid use disorder of behavioral therapy and medication such as buprenorphine, naltrexone, or methadone.

“As this new study shows, interventions designed to link teens and young adults with the needed recovery treatment and care are desperately needed,” the National Institute of Health’s Directors’ blog said. “As we continue to move forward in tackling this terrible crisis through the NIH’s HEAL Initiative and other efforts, finding ways to overcome such systemic barriers and best engage our youth in treatment, including medication, will be essential.”