Dr. Steckler discusses Buprenorphine as treatment for opioid withdrawal in the latest Urgent Matters blog post

November 21, 2017

Dr. Leah Steckler

According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015 and overdoses have increased four-fold since 1999, including both illicit and prescribed opioid medications (1). This dramatic increase in mortality has persisted despite prescribers writing fewer prescriptions for opioids in the past few years (2).  It is possible that fewer opioid prescriptions may lead to more patients experiencing withdrawal.  Current practice approaches in the emergency department (ED) tend to focus more on symptomatic treatment with anti-emetic and anti-diarrheal agents, and referral to rehabilitation services (3).  The standard of care does not currently include opioid agonist-antagonists, like buprenorphine, in the acute period for the management of these patients. The unpleasant effects of withdrawal undoubtedly contribute to opioid addiction. As such, improving pharmacologic methods to control withdrawal symptoms may provide another means of fighting this epidemic.