Only 1 in 4 residential addiction treatment facilities caring for U.S. adolescents under 18 years old offer buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder, according to a new study. Only 1 in 8 offer buprenorphine for ongoing treatment. These findings highlight a significant gap in access to evidence-based addiction treatment among young people. Published in JAMA, this study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), both part of the National Institutes of Health, and led by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
There has been a dramatic rise in overdose deaths among young people aged 14-18 in recent years, likely driven by illicit counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. For those with opioid use disorder, medications are the most effective treatment options for preventing both return to opioid use and overdose deaths. Buprenorphine is the only medication for opioid use disorder that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in people aged 16-18. Although buprenorphine is not approved for use among people under the age of 16 in the U.S., some professional medical societies recommend that buprenorphine be considered as a treatment option for opioid use disorder in younger people.
A recent study highlights a concerning finding regarding the availability of buprenorphine, a crucial medication for treating opioid addiction, in addiction treatment facilities catering to US adolescents. The study reveals that only 1 in 4 rehab centers specializing in adolescent addiction treatment offer buprenorphine, signaling a significant gap in access to this vital form of care for young individuals struggling with addiction.
The research, conducted by experts in the field, sheds light on the importance of buprenorphine as a proven medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, particularly among adolescents. Buprenorphine helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms, reduces cravings, and supports the recovery process. However, the study’s findings highlight a concerning lack of availability of this medication in many rehab centers aimed at helping young people overcome addiction.
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