Monthly Injection Curbs Opioid Cravings, But Few Treatment Centers Use It

MONDAY, April 1, 2024 (HealthDay News) — A monthly long-acting injection of buprenorphine can be an easier and more effective therapy for people struggling with opioid addiction, but treatment centers aren’t much interested in using it, a new study discovers.

Only one-third of treatment facilities (33%) offer long-acting buprenorphine injections to patients, according to findings published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers suspect this is because substance use treatment centers face administrative obstacles that make it more difficult to offer buprenorphine injections, compared to the daily pill form of the drug.

“This paper highlights gaps that exist in the system,” said lead researcher Nitin Vidyasagar, a second-year student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “We can now use the information to help treat people who need it the most.”

Buprenorphine works by activating the same brain receptors that more powerful opioids target. However, the effects are weaker, helping addicts wean themselves off other substances like heroin and fentanyl.

Analyzing federal data on substance use, researchers found that primary care doctors are more likely to offer long-acting buprenorphine shots than treatment centers.

This might be because doctor’s offices face fewer regulatory and administrative hurdles to prescribe the medication as a monthly injection, the researchers said.

“The takeaway is, we still have a lot of work to do to make the full complement of opioid treatment options available to patients,” researcher Dr. Samuel Bunting, an adult psychiatry resident with University of Chicago Medicine, said in a university news release.

More information

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has more on buprenorphine.

SOURCE: University of Chicago, news release