Buprenorphine misuse on the decline, study finds

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Buprenorphine misuse in the U.S. has trended downward over four years, according to a National Institutes of Health study published in JAMA Network Open

The study, published Oct. 15, found that nearly three-quarters of the 2.4 million U.S. adults who reported using buprenorphine in 2019 didn't misuse the drug. It found that buprenorphine misuse trended downward between 2015 and 2019 among people with an opioid use disorder. The study surveyed 214,505 people. 

Buprenorphine is an opioid used to treat opioid use disorder, acute pain and chronic pain. It  works by partially activating opioid receptors in the brain, which can help reduce opioid cravings, withdrawal and overall use of other opioids.

People who received no treatment for opioid use disorder and those in rural areas were more likely to misuse buprenorphine, the study found. 

"This study provides further evidence to support the need for expanded access to proven treatment approaches, such as buprenorphine therapy, despite the remaining stigma and prejudice that remains for people with addiction and the medications used to treat it," Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a news release

In 2020, more than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses, with 75 percent of those deaths involving an opioid, according to the NIH. But in 2019, less than 18 percent of people with an opioid use disorder received medication to treat their addiction. 

Data from the study was collected between January 2015 and December 2019 and was analyzed from February to March 2021. 

Find the full study here.

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