Nearly 2 out of 3 young people do not get addiction treatment after opioid overdose

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FILE – In this Aug. 29, 2018, file photo, oxycodone pills are displayed in New York. Newly released federal data shows how drugmakers and distributors increased shipments of opioid painkillers across the U.S. as the nation’s addiction crisis accelerated from 2006 to 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

New findings by the National Institutes of Health show a lack of assistance for young people battling opioid addiction.

Only 1 in 3 people aged 13-22 who survived an opioid overdose received any kind of follow-up addiction treatment.

The study of over 3,600 young people also showed that less than 2 percent received one of three approved medications for opioid use disorder.

The findings reported in JAMA Pediatrics come from Rachel Alinsky, an adolescent medicine and addiction medicine fellow at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Baltimore.

Alinsky used data on more than 4 million mostly low-income adolescents and young adults who’d been enrolled in Medicaid for at least six months in 16 states. The sample included 3,606 individuals who’d been seen by a doctor and diagnosed with opioid poisoning. A little over half of them were female and most were non-Hispanic whites.

Nationally more than 4,000 fatal opioid overdoses occurred in people between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2016.

Nonfatal opioid overdoses for teens and young adults lead to more than 7,000 hospitalizations and about 28,000 emergency department visits in 2015.

Heroin accounted for about a quarter of those overdoses. The rest involved other opioids, most often prescription painkillers.

Some overdoses from heroin might have been caused by fentanyl, according to researchers. The use of fentanyl, often mixed with heroin, was on the rise in the study’s final years, but it was rarely included in drug tests at the time.

Opioid addiction rewires the brain so will power alone is simply not sufficient to achieve and sustain recovery, according to the NIH. After one overdose, the risk of dying from another one rises dramatically. So, it is critical to get those who survived an overdose into effective treatment right away, according to the NIH Director.

Less than 20 percent of young people in the sample received a diagnosis of opioid use disorder. 68.9 percent did not receive addiction treatment of any kind, while 29.3 percent received behavioral health services alone and only 1.9 percent received one of three approved medications for opioid use disorder. The three approved medications are buprenorphine, naltrexone, or methadone.

Researchers suggest pediatricians might be inexperienced in diagnosing and treating opioid addiction. Adding, even when a problem is recognized, doctors sometimes struggle to take the next step of connecting young people with the proper addiction treatment facilities.

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