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Guideline Helps Primary Care Manage Opioid Addictions

Guideline Helps Primary Care Manage Opioid Addictions

Significant increases in the use and misuse of opioid related drugs has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare a nationwide “opioid epidemic.” Given the dramatic increase in prevalence of opioid addiction, a new practice guideline will help primary care providers manage this 21st century crisis.

Addiction disorders include the use and misuse of opioids — morphine and related drugs, including prescription pain medications. Evidence-based treatment options supports the use of medications in addition to psychosocial treatments, for people with opioid use disorders.

However, while medications play an important role in managing patients with opioid use disorders, there are not enough physicians with the knowledge and ability to use these often-complex treatments.

New recommendations on the use of prescription medications for the treatment of opioid addiction are published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

The National Practice Guideline provides guidance on the use of medications to treat addiction involving opioid use, according to a synopsis by Drs. Kyle Kampman of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, and Margaret Jarvis of Marworth Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Treatment Center, Waverly, Pa.

They write, “This Practice Guideline was developed to assist in the evaluation and treatment of opioid use, and in the hope that, using this tool, more physicians will be able to provide effective treatment.”

“Suboptimal treatment has likely contributed to expansion of the epidemic as well as concerns for unethical practices,” Kampman and Jarvis write. “At the same time, access to competent treatment is profoundly restricted because few physicians are willing and able to provide it.”

The skill and time needed for effective use of medications for opioid use disorders “are not generally available to primary care doctors.”

In response, American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) assembled a multidisciplinary Guideline Committee, consisting of specialists in addiction medicine and other relevant fields. The guideline was developed by a formal process, combining scientific evidence and clinical knowledge.

The National Practice Guideline provides specific recommendations for assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, including the management of opioid withdrawal. It focuses on specific, evidence-based guidance on the major medications used in treating opioid use disorders.

Medication options include the opioid agonist (same action) medication methadone, the opioid partial agonist buprenorphine, and the opioid antagonist naltrexone. The guideline includes recommendations for appropriate use of these medications through each phase of treatment, as well as for patient monitoring and follow-up.

The guideline also addresses the rapid-acting opioid blocker naloxone, which plays a critical role in reversing opioid overdose. The Guideline Committee recommends that first responders such as emergency medical services, police officers, and firefighters be trained in and authorized to use naloxone.

The guideline also includes recommendations for patient populations with special needs and concerns: pregnant women, people with accompanying psychiatric disorders, people with pain, adolescents, and people involved in the criminal justice system. For each area addressed by the National Practice Guideline, the committee highlights key areas for further research.

Rather than a set of hard-and-fast rules, the guideline is intended as an aid to clinical decision-making for professionals at all levels of experience in treating opioid use disorders.

Researchers and ASAM leaders hope the information provided will help to make treatment more readily available for people with addiction involving opioid use, thus stemming the tide of overdose deaths.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health/EurekAlert

Guideline Helps Primary Care Manage Opioid Addictions

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Guideline Helps Primary Care Manage Opioid Addictions. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 28 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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