Study: 1 in 3 young adults medicated within year of opioid overdose

Oct. 8 (UPI) — A new Massachusetts study found that one in three young adults who experienced a non-fatal opioid overdose received opioid use disorder medication within a year.

Researchers at Boston Medical Center and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health say the study, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, reveals age may be a factor in the type of treatment and medication used for opioid misuse.

“Given that the reward and positive reinforcement systems are more advanced than inhibitory systems among young adults, it is imperative to engage them in treatment as early as possible to help prevent a disorder, or worse,” said Sarah Bagley, the study’s lead author and a pediatrician and BMC internist who specializes in addiction, in a news release.

Researchers analyzed data on 15,281 adults, ages 18 to 45, who survived opioid-related overdose in Massachusetts between 2012 and 2014.

Data was divided into three age groups, 18 to 21, 22 to 25, and 26 to 45 years.

The study showed that 28 percent of those in the youngest age group received medical treatment within a year, along with 36 percent of those in both of the older age groups.

It also analyzed the length of time after the overdose it took to receive medication treatment, and which medication was taken, among buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone.

Though the study covered 12 months, all age groups had a median time to medical treatment of three to five months.

The study also found that the type of medication varied by age group.

The two younger groups were more likely to receive naltrexone than the oldest age group. The youngest group was also less likely to receive methadone than the two older groups.

Researchers recommended future studies focus on medication choice and on optimizing the emergency department to initiate medication for opioid use disorder after nonfatal overdose.

“It is important that young adults who survive an overdose have access to medication, including when they are treated in the emergency department or in the hospital or outpatient settings,” Bagley said. “All of these encounters are critical opportunities to engage them in treatment, which can save their life.”