Most Residential Addiction Treatment Programs Don’t Offer Live-Saving Medication

 Patients seeking treatment for an opioid addiction have limited access to a life-saving medication, buprenorphine, in residential treatment facilities across the U.S. Research published in JAMA finds that 29% of 368 programs contacted offer the drug that helps reduce cravings for heroin or fentanyl. Another 21% of the treatment centers contacted discouraged its use.

The results build on previous research that shows most programs that patients check in to for days, weeks or months at a time do not offer any of the FDA-approved medications to treat an opioid use disorder. That's despite the growing body of work that concludes buprenorphine reduces the risk of relapse, overdose and death.

The study used a "secret shopper" approach. Callers posing as 27-year-old uninsured heroin users reached out to both private and government-run facilities.

The researchers, based at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale University, say the results raise concerns about the quality of care patients can expect to find at residential treatment programs. Lead author, Dr. Michael Barnett, says prescribing buprenorphine should be a basic component of addiction treatment.

"That's a very low bar to pass and still most facilities aren't meeting it," says Barnett, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health.

The limited use of buprenorphine, whose brand names include Suboxone, Subutex and Sublocade, highlights a long-standing controversy. Many people who've been addicted to drugs or alcohol say abstaining from all such.....

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