Too Few People Receive MAT for Opioid Addiction

New study finds the use of methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are greatly underused in the fight against opioid addiction.


Despite “compelling evidence” that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help people recover from opioid addiction, methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are woefully underused. A study cofunded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that following an overdose, less than one-third of patients were provided any medication for opioid use disorder (OUD).

“A great part of the tragedy of this opioid crisis is that…we now possess effective treatment strategies that could address it and save many lives, yet tens of thousands of people die each year because they have not received these treatments,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA.

The researchers analyzed data from 17,568 adults in Massachusetts who survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014. Opioid overdose deaths declined by 59% among patients who received methadone and 38% for those who received buprenorphine over the 12 months of follow-up, compared with patients who did not receive treatment.

Another disturbing study finding: 34% of people who had an overdose were nonetheless given ≥ 1 prescriptions for opioid painkillers over the next 12 months, and 26% were prescribed benzodiazepines.

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