By Boston Medical Center

A new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction on opioid overdose survivors indicates that two FDA approved medications to treat opioid use disorder save lives, but only three out of 10 overdose survivors receive them. Using a novel public health dataset from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the researchers found that those who received methadone or buprenorphine had significant reductions in all-cause and opioid-related mortality after surviving an overdose compared to individuals not taking medication. In addition, the results underscore the missed opportunities to identify individuals with opioid use disorder and engage them in treatment when and wherever they enter the health care system with opioid-related harms.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, this study is the first of its kind to examine the association between using medication to treat opioid use disorder and mortality in patients who had a nonfatal opioid overdose.

Patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) are at an increased risk of death—in this study, five percent of patients who initially survived an overdose died within one year. There are currently three FDA approved medications to treat OUD, which are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Numerous studies have shown these medications to be effective in decreasing cravings and use of opioids as well as keeping patients in treatment for OUD.