Friday, September 4, 2020

One 20-Minute Call May Encourage Medication Treatment, Lower Overdose Risk in Patients With OUD

Receiving a 20-minute phone call from a trained peer counselor may help prompt people who have overdosed on opioids to begin medication treatment and lower their risk of another opioid overdose, suggests a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Theresa Winhusen, Ph.D., of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and colleagues compared the rates of medication treatment enrollment, opioid overdose, and opioid use in 80 patients who were randomized to receive either standard education or education with a personalized call. Standard education consisted of an information packet with three reports that were generated from the patient’s responses to two surveys, the Personal Opioid-Overdose Risk Survey and the Opioid Overdose and Treatment Awareness Survey (OOTAS). Those in the intervention group received the standard education as well as the phone call. All patients received a naloxone nasal spray kit.

Peer counselors were enrolled in a medication treatment program for at least a year; had not used opioids for at least a year; and had experienced, witnessed, or lost a family member or friend to an overdose. They completed practice calls as part of their training, and they were required to score at least 90% on the OOTAS. All told, training and certification as a peer counselor took four hours. During the phone call with the patient, the peer counselor discussed medication treatment and answered the patient’s questions. The peer counselors were provided with guidelines for the calls, but the calls were not scripted.

At 12-month follow-up, 32.5% of patients who had received a call had begun medication treatment for opioid use disorder, compared with 17.5% of those who did not receive a call. Those who had received a call also had a lower rate of opioid overdose, 12.5% compared with 32.5% among those who had not received a call. However, there were no significant differences between opioid use between the groups, as shown by urine drug screenings conducted at different points throughout the 12 months.

“In the current era of COVID-19, it is notable that this intervention was designed to be implemented by phone, thus eliminating the need for in-person contact,” the researchers wrote. “[T]he results from this randomized pilot trial suggest that a brief, telephone-delivered intervention has promise for increasing [medication for opioid use disorder] enrollment and decreasing recurring opioid overdoses in individuals surviving an opioid overdose. Further development and testing of this … intervention, particularly in light of the current U.S. opioid epidemic, seems warranted.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “SAMHSA Issues Guidance on OUD Treatment During COVID-19.”

(Image: iStock/martin-dm)


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