By Amy Norton        
       HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — As opioid overdose deaths proceed to soar, a Canadian program factors to 1 technique to save lives: offering “safer” opioids to individuals at excessive threat of overdose.

That’s the conclusion of a research evaluating Canada’s first formal “safer opioid provide,” or SOS, program. Such packages purpose to stop overdoses by giving weak individuals an alternative choice to the more and more harmful road provide of opioids.

In this case, the London, Ontario-based program supplied purchasers with a each day dose of prescription opioid tablets, in addition to primary well being care, counseling and social companies.

The consequence was a fast drop in emergency division journeys and hospitalizations among the many 82 purchasers studied, the researchers discovered. And over six years, there was not a single overdose demise.

“I feel this can be a landmark research,” stated Thomas Kerr, director of analysis on the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, in Vancouver, Canada.

Kerr, who was not concerned within the research, acknowledged that SOS packages are controversial and have their critics. Concerns have included the potential of opioid drugs being offered, or individuals crushing the tablets and injecting them, which carries the chance of overdose or an infection.

But criticisms of safer provide have been made within the absence of information, Kerr stated.

“The complete dialog has been clouded by misinformation,” he stated. “When we’re speaking about issues of life and demise, we will not depend on individuals’s opinions.”

Kerr stated he hoped the brand new findings “will mute among the misinformation.”

The research was printed Sept. 19 within the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). Itcomes amid an ever-worsening opioid epidemic.

In the United States, opioid overdose deaths have been on the rise for years, and the state of affairs worsened after the pandemic hit. In 2020, almost 92,000 Americans died of a drug overdose — largely involving opioids, in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disaster has primarily been pushed by illegally made variations of the painkiller fentanyl, an artificial opioid that’s 50 occasions stronger than heroin, well being officers say. Illicit fentanyl is offered in varied types, together with drugs made to seem like different prescription opioids. It’s additionally generally combined into different unlawful medicine, like cocaine and heroin, to spice up their efficiency. The result’s that customers are sometimes unaware they’re taking fentanyl.

Safer provide packages are primarily based on the precept of hurt discount — that overdoses, infections and different penalties of opioid habit could be prevented, with out requiring individuals who misuse medicine to be utterly abstinent.

The new findings come from a program begun in 2016 at London InterCommunity Health Centre. It offers purchasers with hydromorphone (Dilaudid) tablets, allotted each day, in addition to many different companies — together with main well being care, therapy for infections like HIV and hepatitis C, counseling, and assist with housing and different social companies.


The researchers, led by Tara Gomes, of Unity Health Toronto, checked out information on all 94 purchasers who entered this system between 2016 and March 2019. They in contrast 82 of these individuals towards 303 people identified with opioid habit who didn’t participate in this system.

Over one yr, the research discovered, emergency division visits and hospitalizations fell amongst program purchasers, whereas remaining unchanged within the comparability group. And whereas purchasers had medicine prices — coated by Ontario’s prescription drug plan — their yearly well being care prices outdoors of main care plunged: from about $15,600, on common, to $7,300.

Again, there was no substantial change within the comparability group.

Dr. Sandra Springer is an affiliate professor at Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn., who has helped craft apply pointers for the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

“This research is additional proof that packages that meet sufferers the place they’re and supply quick access to medical look after therapy of opioid use dysfunction can save extra lives and cut back well being care prices,” stated Springer, who was not concerned within the analysis.

Opioid dependency itself could be handled with medication-assisted remedy, which includes counseling and drugs like buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone.

“While this SOS program didn’t present conventional drugs for the therapy of opioid use dysfunction to all members, these drugs had been obtainable to sufferers by this system,” Springer famous.

And, she stated, different analysis has proven that when individuals who use medicine are provided “compassionate care,” they’re extra prone to settle for “evidence-based therapy.”

The extent to which SOS packages will unfold stays to be seen. In 2020, Health Canada introduced funding for a number of further pilot packages. And final yr, New York City opened two overdose prevention websites — the place individuals with opioid habit can use the medicine in a clear, supervised setting, and be related with well being care and social companies.

The websites are the primary publicly acknowledged overdose prevention facilities within the United States.

Kerr stated that within the face of an opioid disaster that’s solely worsening, “the established order response isn’t ample.”

“We need to strive new approaches,” he stated, “and scientifically consider them.”

         More data        

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has extra on opioid use dysfunction.


SOURCES: Thomas Kerr, PhD, director, analysis, British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, professor, social medication, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Sandra Springer, MD, affiliate professor, medication, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; CMAJ, Sept. 19, 2022, on-line


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