While methadone and buprenorphine treatment for opioid use is widely used and accepted, the efficacy of non-medication treatments in reducing opioid use and improving treatment retention is unclear. A retrospective cohort study in the United States has compared medication and non-medication treatment by assessing opioid overdose mortality associated with each approach. Of the 48,274 adults diagnosed with opioid use disorder included in the study, 371 had a fatal overdose. Risk of fatal opioid overdose was significantly reduced for participants during medication treatment compared to those in non-medication treatment (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR]: 0.18; 95% CI: 0.08-0.40). The greatest risk was observed out of care and following discharge from treatment with both non-medication treatment (aHR: 5.45; 95% CI: 2.80–9.53) and medication treatment (aHR: 5.85; 95% CI: 3.10–11.02), compared with periods during non-medication treatment. From these findings, researchers concluded that the risk of fatal opioid overdose was reduced during treatment with methadone and buprenorphine in comparison to during non-medication treatment, but the reduced risk was not retained after treatment was ceased. The full text can be viewed here.

Contributed by AMSS Associate, Isabella Singh