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Few young people with opioid dependence have received medication

June 21, 2017
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A Boston Medical Center study has found that for teens and young adults diagnosed with an opioid use disorder between 2001 and 2014, only 27% received a prescription for buprenorphine or naltrexone within six months of their diagnosis. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) last year recommended that adolescents with opioid use disorders receive medication treatment.

Published online in JAMA Pediatrics, the study looked at a sample of nearly 21,000 young people ages 13 to 25. Buprenorphine was prescribed eight times more often than naltrexone for this group. Teens, young women, and African-Americans and Hispanics were less likely to receive medication treatment.

“It is critical that providers caring for young people intervene early in the evolution of addiction and provide effective treatment with medication which can potentially prevent a lifetime of harm,” said study lead author Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and addiction specialist at Boston Medical Center.

The researchers stated that besides the overall shortage of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine, another access barrier for young people involves the fact that only 1% of the certified physicians are pediatricians.