Teens, Young Adults Rarely Get Addiction Treatment Following Opioid Overdoses

Most low-income teens and young adults who survive opioid overdoses don’t receive adequate treatment and resources afterward to help them combat their addictions, results of a new study show.

In fact, less than one in every three Medicaid enrollees age 13 to 22 receive timely addiction treatment following an overdose of heroin or other opioids, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. 

Timely addiction treatment — as defined by the study’s authors — is “a claim for behavioral health services, for [the drugs] buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone prescription or administration, or for both behavioral health services and pharmacotherapy [i.e. – medication-assisted treatment, or MAT] within 30 days of incident overdose.”

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For the study, researchers looked at more than 3,600 enrollees from 16 states who were continuously covered by Medicaid for at least the 30 days following their overdose.

Of those, 69% didn’t receive any addiction prevention services within those 30 days. Additionally, of the enrollees who did receive some form of mental health counseling in that window, less than 30% received any opioid addiction help — and less 2% received any MAT.

The eight-person research team culled information from a database operated by Truven Health Analytics, a health care data company owned by IBM. The overdoses happened between 2009 and 2015.

The findings illustrate the need to fill gaps in the care continuum following opioid overdose.

“Interventions are urgently needed to link youths to treatment after overdose, with priority placed on improving access to pharmacotherapy,” the authors wrote in the study.

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