NIDA Study Finds Increase in Overdose Deaths Among Pregnant and Postpartum Women from 2018-2021

In November, a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) study was published in JAMA Psychiatry, focusing on overdose deaths in pregnant and postpartum women. The researchers reviewed U.S. data on multiple causes of death, county-level area health resources, county health rankings, and U.S. births. From January 2018 through December 2021, there was an increase in the number of overdose deaths among pregnant and postpartum women and girls ages 10-44. The 35-44 age group was particularly affected, with the rate of overdose death tripling from 4.9 deaths per 100,000 mothers in 2018, to 15.8 per 100,000 mothers in 2021. The study’s findings align with research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on overdose death rates. The authors note that pregnant and postpartum women face “significant barriers” in accessing treatment for substance use disorders, such as penalization, stigma, and discrimination. NIDA Director and senior researcher Dr. Nora Volkow said, “The stigma and punitive policies that burden pregnant women with substance use disorder increase overdose risk by making it harder to access life-saving treatment and resources…Reducing barriers and the stigma that surrounds addiction can open the door for pregnant individuals to seek and receive evidence-based treatment and social support to sustain their health as well as their child’s health.”

Articles & Resources

NIDA—Overdose death increased in pregnant and postpartum women from early 2018 to late 2021

JAMA Psychiatry—Pregnancy and Postpartum Drug Overdose Deaths in the US Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

HHS OIG Report Affirms Low Risk of Buprenorphine Diversion Among Medicare Beneficiaries

At the end of November, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Investigator General released its 2022 report on the risk of misuse and diversion of buprenorphine for Medicare beneficiaries. The report’s findings are similar to the 2021 results. Of the 182,043 enrollees, 97% received the appropriate amounts of buprenorphine, 83% enrollees received buprenorphine-naloxone combination products, and enrollees rarely received high doses of buprenorphine while also receiving other opioids. The report recommends continued educational campaigns to providers on the accessibility of buprenorphine, the reduced risk of combination products, and monitoring of buprenorphine, and information sharing with partners. Based on the findings from 2021 and 2022, HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will continue to support buprenorphine utilization and access programs.

Articles & Resources

HHS-OIG Report—The Risk of Misuse and Diversion of Buprenorphine for Opioid Use Disorder in Medicare Part D Continues to Appear Low: 2022

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.

The American Journal of Psychiatry—The Long-Term Relationship Between Cannabis and Heroin Use: An 18-to-20 year Follow Up of the Australian Treatment Outcome Study (ATOS)

The Lancet—Drug decriminalisation: grounding policy in evidence

Los Angeles Times—Newsom announces plan to crack down on deadly street drug known as ‘tranq.’

MarketWatch—Supreme Court set to hear Purdue Pharma case that could shake up opioid settlement—and the bankruptcy process

This Week’s Calendar

In the week ahead, there are no relevant events or hearings noticed at this time. In the event that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

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