Treating Opioid Use Disorder in the Emergency Department

Treating Opioid Use Disorder in the Emergency Department

Until recently, when people came to Massachusetts General Hospital’s emergency department (ED) desperate to stop using heroin or prescription painkillers, physicians could only hand them a list of telephone numbers for treatment programs, numbers many of them had already called, only to be told they couldn’t get in. “That was so frustrating for all of us,” recalled Ali Raja, MD, executive vice chair of the department. “We weren’t trained or equipped to dispense buprenorphine,” 1 of 3 approved drugs used to treat opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2002, relieves opioid withdrawal symptoms...

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