Opiate Substitution Treatment Found to Reduce Mortality Rate in Addicts

October 28, 2010

A recent study reports that patients have a greater chance of survival when given opiate substitution treatment (OST) for over 12 months. Although there has been a 2-fold increase in opiate prescriptions in the past 10 years, the mortality rate from OST has fallen, making it a viable treatment for opiate abusers.

A recent study reports that patients have a greater chance of survival when given opiate substitution treatment (OST). Using data from the General Practice Research Database (GPRD), which contains anonymous patient records from more than 460 medical practices in the UK, Matt Hickman of Bristol University and researchers analyzed the mortality rates of over 5500 patients with substance use disorders who, between 1990 and 2005, had received 267,003 OST prescriptions.

Sadly, a total of 178 (3%) patients died either while in treatment or within a year of their last prescription. The mortality rate of those patients without treatment was almost double that of patients with OST treatment. It was further noted that OST treatment reduced overall mortality by 85% in opiate users if they were in treatment for 12 months or longer.

Opiate addicts are at greater risk of death from overdose than other drug users. In primary care settings, methadone and buprenorphine are the main OST drugs used to reduce mortality. Although there has been a 2-fold increase in opiate prescriptions in the past 10 years, the mortality rate from OST has fallen, making it a viable treatment for opiate abusers. The study was published in the online version of the British Medical Journal.Details available at: Risk of death during and after opiate substitution treatment in primary care: prospective observational study in UK General Practice Research Database. BMJ. 2010;341:c5475.
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