Buprenorphine/naloxone induction in a Canadian emergency department with rapid access to community-based addictions providers

Tina Hu, Melissa Snider-Adler, Larry Nijmeh, Adam Pyle
CJEM 2019, 21 (4): 492-498

OBJECTIVES: Opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits have increased significantly in recent years. Our objective was to evaluate an ED-initiated buprenorphine/naloxone program, which provided rapid access to an outpatient community-based addictions clinic, for patients in opioid withdrawal.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review was completed within a health system encompassing four community EDs in Ontario, Canada. Patients were screened for opioid withdrawal between April 2017-December 2017 and offered buprenorphine/naloxone treatment and referral to outpatient addictions follow-up. The main outcome measure was treatment retention in the six-month period after the index visit.

RESULTS: The overall sample (N = 49) showed high healthcare utilization in the year prior to the index ED visit. 88% of patients (n = 43) consented to ED-initiated buprenorphine/naloxone and were referred to outpatient addictions follow-up, with 54% attending the initial follow-up visit. In the 6-month follow-up period from the index ED visit, 35% of patients were receiving ongoing buprenorphine/naloxone treatment and 2.3% were weaned off opioids. Patients with ongoing treatment had significantly lower number of ED visits at 3 and 6 months (3 and 10, respectively) compared to patients who did not show up for outpatient follow-up (28, 40) or started/stopped treatment (23, 41).

CONCLUSIONS: Screening for opioid use disorder in the ED and initiating buprenorphine/naloxone treatment with rapid referral to an outpatient community-based addictions clinic led to a 6-month treatment retention rate of 37% and a significant reduction in ED visits at 3 and 6 months. Buprenorphine/naloxone initiation in the ED appears to be an effective intervention, but further research is needed.

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Chris Prater

More ER physicians need to become comfortable with the issues around buprenorphine induction and educated on the importance of induction whenever the individual is ready for it as these opportunities frequently present for a narrow, short time interval


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