Opioid Use Disorder Patients Much More Likely To Die If Treated In a General Health System Vs. Addiction Clinic

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Opioid Use Disorder Patients Much More Likely To Die If Treated In a General Health System Vs. Addiction Clinic

According to a new study from UCLA, people who suffer from opioid use disorders and received medical attention in a university health system had ten times the likelihood of dying than those without the disorder or obtained treatment from a specialist addiction clinic. The study is said to be the first of its kind.

Yih-Ing Hser, Ph.D., lead researcher and an instructor of behavioral sciences and psychiatry at UCLA:

“Given that substance use disorders are not routinely screened for in primary care, it is likely that late identification of opioid use disorder and lack of addiction treatment could contribute to high rates of serious health conditions and death.”

The study was conducted by researchers who hope to decrease deaths among those who garnered medical treatment for opioid use disorder at a large healthcare system.

The study included nearly 2,600 subjects with who had been diagnosed with opioid use disorder, and investigators examined health reports and a death index. They looked at death rates, causes, and risk factors among persons who obtained medical treatment in a university health system or received no treatment at all.

opioid use disorder | Just Believe RecoveryParticipants were examined for an average of four years. During the length of the study, there were 465 deaths.

Individuals who died tended to be older than others at the time of the first diagnosis, and had greater rates of additional health problems, such as cancer, hepatitis C, liver disease, and other substance use disorders such as alcohol and cocaine.

Nearly 20% of the deaths could be attributable to drug use disorders and overdoses. Heart disease and cancer were nearly equally responsible for deaths at around 17% each. Infection accounted for another 13.5%.

The study revealed that there were twice as many deaths among those treated in the university health system than those treated in specialized clinics, and there were more deaths among uninsured subjects and African Americans.

Researchers suggested that primary care physician training should be improved to help prevent, diagnose, and treat opioid addiction in the general healthcare system.


“The high rates of death among patients with opioid use disorder in a general health care system reported in this study suggest we need strategies to improve detection and treatment of this disorder in primary care settings.”

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology



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