Viewpoint: 4 reasons hospitals must directly address opioid addiction

Hospitals must go beyond treatment for drug use complications and address the underlying addiction, Richard Bottner and Christopher Moriates, MD, faculty members at Dell Medical School of the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in an op-ed for STAT.

Four reasons hospitals must treat opioid addiction, according to Mr. Bottner and Dr. Moriates:

1. People may be particularly receptive to addiction treatment while hospitalized for opioid use disorders. Hospitalization separates patients from the normal environment in which they take drugs and often leads them to reflect on their addiction's consequences.

2. Treating complications, rather than the addiction itself, results in high rates of hospital readmission for people addicted to drugs. Yet most hospitals offer only short-term solutions, such as detoxification.

3. Hospitals rarely prescribe buprenorphine, a medication for opioid use disorder, to addicted patients. Prescribers say they lack experience in addiction treatment and believe psychiatrists must address such matters. But the medication has been shown to reduce opioid-related hospital readmissions and to encourage patients to seek outpatient treatment.

4. Inpatient hospital treatment programs made up of interdisciplinary teams can successfully treat opioid addiction. The authors cite their own hospital, Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, the only hospital in the state with an addiction treatment program. The program's group of psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, chaplains and other staff have treated over 75 patients in under six months.

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