Opioid crisis: More access to take-home treatments didn’t raise risk of overdoses, study says

From the CTV News article

A new study tracking patients receiving treatment for opioid addiction in Ontario has found that a recommendation change in March 2020 which allowed for more take-home treatments during the pandemic resulted in less overdoses and in more patients staying in the program.

Researchers followed more than 21,000 people who were receiving opioid agonist therapy (OAT) in 2020, and found that among those who were receiving daily doses of methadone, those who moved to take-home doses were actually 27-per-cent less likely to have an opioid-related overdose.

Study authors believe this could support giving more flexible access to treatments in the future – an important step given Canada’s opioid crisis has worsened during the pandemic.

“Allowing people to have that agency over treatment and given that opportunity is really important in independence and in confidence building,” Charlotte Munro, one of the study’s co-authors and a member of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network’s (ODPRN) lived experienced advisory board, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

The gold standard in treating opioid addiction is OAT, in which patients take regular doses of either methadone or buprenorphine, also called Suboxone, which are both long-acting opioid drugs. 

“They’re oral medications that are taken that replace opioids that people might have taken instead and help people prevent themselves from going into withdrawal and maintain a steady state of opioid in their system,” said Dr. Tara Gomes, a Principal Investigator of ODPRN and lead author of the study published Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

However, because OAT involves controlled substances that could pose a risk of overdose, particularly methadone, the treatment is delivered in-person every day in a pharmacy for a period of time until a physician decides to slowly prescribe more doses to take at home.

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