NIH-funded Study Finds Only 1 in 4 Adolescent Treatment Facilities Offer Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study found that only one in four inpatient treatment facilities caring for minors utilize buprenorphine treatments for Opioid Use Disorder, and only one in eight support ongoing buprenorphine treatment. This research calls particular attention to a significant gap in care for individuals under 18. The FDA has approved buprenorphine for teens ages 16-18, making it the only medication for opioid use disorder available for teens. From October to December 2022, researchers utilized a “secret shopper” technique to inquire about the facility’s treatment options. They identified 354 centers, of which 327 responded to questions and 160 provided residential treatment for minors. Of the 160 treatment centers allowing minors, only 39 offered buprenorphine treatment. In some cases, treatment was offered in partnership with outside clinicians. Twelve facilities-initiated buprenorphine treatment but would stop treatment before discharge, and 17 offered ongoing buprenorphine treatment. To compare, two-thirds of adult treatment facilities utilized buprenorphine as medication for opioid use disorder. Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), stated, “It is tragic to see that young people with opioid use disorder are unable to access buprenorphine in most treatment facilities, despite this medication being the standard of care for people aged 16 and older…It is tragic to see that young people with opioid use disorder are unable to access buprenorphine in most treatment facilities, despite this medication being the standard of care for people aged 16 and older.”

Articles & Resources

NIH—Only 1 in 4 Treatment Facilities Offer Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder

JAMA—Treatment Used Among Adolescent Residential Treatment Facilities in the U.S., 2022

Biden Administration Health Leaders Author Article on the Need for Research and Innovation with Fentanyl Test Strips

In 2021, more 15-54-year-olds died of drug overdoses than COVID-19, and the opioid epidemic continues to be a major public health crisis that lacks a permanent solution. However, harm reduction efforts, such as the legalization of fentanyl test strips, are becoming increasingly popular nationwide. Until recently, fentanyl test strips in the hands of civilians were seen as drug paraphernalia, but policymakers’ mindsets are changing. Last week, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Robert Califf, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Marta Sokolowska, Deputy Director of Substance Use and Behavioral Health at FDA, Dr. Lawerence Tabak, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Dr. Wilson Compton, Deputy Director of NIDA, authored an article outlining the continued need for expanded research on fentanyl test strips and drug checking, which aims to protect individuals from unintentionally taking fentanyl. Fentanyl testing strips have a 3.7% false negative rate and a 9.6% false positive rate, and few studies to date have covered the objective performance of drug checking using fentanyl testing strips. The authors emphasize that more research is needed to create and inform guidelines for preparing samples and reproducibility. The authors conclude by welcoming NIH research proposals on fentanyl test strips and other drug-checking technologies.

Articles & Resources

The New England Journal of Medicine—Testing for Fentanyl: Urgent Need for Practice-Relevant and Public Health Research

Opioid Settlement Payouts Made Public

KFF Health News (KFF) received documentation outlining the exact opioid settlement payout amounts for 2022-2023 made to local governments. On June 16, KFF published a report outlining their findings and shared the payout breakdown, noting that the settlement funding is not necessarily reaching the communities most impacted by the opioid epidemic. For example, Jefferson County, Kentucky, received $860,657, while Knox County, which the report cites as a county that is “considered ground zero of the epidemic,” only received $45,395.33. Los Angeles County was allocated $6.3 million, whereas Mendocino County, with the highest opioid-related death rate in California, was only allocated $185,000. Transparency into where these funds are going is also of concern for people affected by the epidemic. As of March 2023, only 12 states had committed to publicly reporting 100% of their settlement usage. Documents showing opioid settlement allocations to state and local governments can be found here.

Articles & Resources

KFF—Opioid Settlement Payouts to Localities Made Public for First Time

KFF—Payback: Tracking Opioid Cash

What We Read Last Week

Several articles were published last week pertaining to the opioid epidemic, covering a variety of different components of the topic. Links to relevant articles are provided below.

American Journal of Public Health—Spatiotemporal Analysis Exploring the Effect of Law Enforcement Drug Market Disruptions on Overdose, Indianapolis, Indiana, 2020-2021

Axios—Inside Minnesota’s $200 million push to combat the substance abuse crisis

FDA—Online Opioid Summit 2023

HHS-HHS Announces $9 Million to Increase the Numbers of Substance Use Disorder Clinicians in Underserved Communities

Reuters—U.S. will “make every effort” to boost cooperation with China on fentanyl

SAMHSA—Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Behavioral Health: Results from 2021 and 2022 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health

This Week’s Calendar

  • House Committee on Energy and Commerce
    Subcommittee on Health: “Responding to America’s Overdose Crisis: An Examination of Legislation to Build Upon the SUPPORT Act”
    Wednesday, June 21; 10:00 a.m.; Hearing Notice

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