Researchers find opioid use curbed by team at infectious diseases clinic

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Researchers at the University of Kentucky may have developed a multidisciplinary plan to treat those with opioid use disorder, a new study indicates.

In 2018, the researchers treated 400 people who had developed endocarditis, a condition where germs enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart where they can damage heart valves. Researchers said 73 percent of the infections were associated with injection drug use. Study authors said they were looking for solutions that would also address the addiction.

Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the researchers could curb opioid use disorder in patients by providing the patients at infectious diseases clinics with mental health therapists, relapse prevention services, and medications.

“Our intervention is about linking patients with IV drug use associated infections to outpatient addiction treatment services,” Sarah R. Blevins, PharmD, a pharmacist and the lead on the study, who has also helped treat those with hepatitis C and HIV, said.

The paper was presented this week at IDWeek 2020.

Researchers also said the treatment approach could be a model for other states with large rural populations. In rural areas, access to transportation, poverty, and unemployment are some of the barriers to treatment opioid use disorder patients face. Additionally, limited access to treatment clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted treatment.

“All of this goes back to the addiction problem,” researcher Alice Thornton said. “We have to step back and see the whole person and the root of the problem.”

The research outlined how infectious disease providers can help patients who would otherwise be discharged without follow-up treatment for their addiction. The researchers said they would continue a longitudinal review of patient progress and outcomes, as well as a study to determine the patients’ perception of how the treatment impacted their quality of life.

“We have seen some really good success stories beyond just good health outcomes,” Blevins said. “When we hear about a former patient who has been able to reunite with their family or begin a new career, it’s rewarding.”

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