Addiction Treatment Should Start During Emergency Visits, According To Yale Study

Feb 14, 2017

Yale researchers say treatment for opioid addiction should start in hospital emergency departments. Results from an ongoing study released Monday find positive long-term benefits.

Patients identified with opioid use disorder are traditionally sent home with a pamphlet and a referral for treatment. But doctors at Yale University have been initiating treatment at a critical time -- when they see a patient in the emergency department.

Preliminary results from the same study found that patients are more likely to continue with addiction treatment if medication that reduces cravings is introduced during their visit to the ED.

But researchers weren’t sure how long the benefits would last. Dr. Gail D’Onofrio, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Yale, led a follow-up study. At the end of two months, the results were encouraging.

"What we found is that as long as the patients were in treatment with us for that two month follow-up, we had the same results as we did at thirty days," D'Onofrio said, "meaning there were more people continuing to engage in treatment and they were less likely to use illicit opiates."

D’Onofrio said the findings show that initiating treatment for opioid addiction in the emergency department is effective and should be the new paradigm.

She is part of a team of doctors who've been working with Governor Dannel Malloy on a strategy to reduce both the number of overdoses and the abuse of opioids in the state.

WNPR’s Opioid Addiction Crisis Reporting Initiative is supported by Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network’s MATCH Program.