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Routine screening, treatment can curb opioid abuse

By Allen Cone
Researchers recommend opioid abuses, including heroin, as well as linked increases in HIV, hepatitis C and other infections, can be reduced with routinely screening and treatment when seeking other services, according to recommendations by an organization. Photo by Maxal Tamor/Shutterstock
Researchers recommend opioid abuses, including heroin, as well as linked increases in HIV, hepatitis C and other infections, can be reduced with routinely screening and treatment when seeking other services, according to recommendations by an organization. Photo by Maxal Tamor/Shutterstock

July 16 (UPI) -- Opioid abuse, as well as linked increases in HIV, hepatitis C and other infections, can be reduced with routinely screening and treatment when seeking other services, according to new recommendations.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine made five recommendations in a paper published Friday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The publication follows proceedings on March 12 at a NASEM workshop.

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"Treatment can save lives," co-author Dr. Todd Korthuis, head of addiction medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine said in a press release. "The national opioid epidemic can turn around if we embrace opioid use disorder as a chronic medical condition that needs treatment instead of a moral issue or the result of poor willpower."

OHSU routinely screens and treats patients for opioid abuse when they come for other services, at leasat partially through a service called Project IMPACT, the Improving Addiction Care Team. The project includes physicians, social workers, peer-recovery mentors and others meeting with hospitalized patients with drug use issues and starting addiction treatment during hospitalization.

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The workshop examined how more people are turning to injection drug use after their opioid prescriptions are cut off, which then has led to an increase in life-threatening infections of the skin, joint, blood, bone and other area.

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For these serious infections, hospital treatments are expensive and lengthy, researchers said. In addition, they noted there is "substantial morbidity and a heavy financial toll on the health care system."

Most hospital staff don't regularly address drug addiction as the root cause, the researchers said.

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"Medical settings that manage such infections offer a potential means of engaging people in treatment of opioid use disorder ," the researchers wrote. "However, few providers and hospitals treating such infections have the needed resources and capabilities."

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