Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that deaths from unintentional drug poisonings in the United States exceeded 100,000 in 2021. This is the largest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a one-year period in this country. Further analysis of the data reveals that more than 75% of these overdose deaths were due to opioids.
Lancaster County has not been shielded from this national epidemic of opioid-related overdose deaths. During the 2020 calendar year, our county saw 143 deaths from unintentional drug poisonings, and opioids were implicated in 89% of those deaths. The broad consensus is that untreated, or inadequately treated, opioid use disorder (OUD) is a major factor underlying this crisis.
Our colleague Tara Tawil, MD, described the evolution of this epidemic over the past 30 years in the pages of this journal in 2019. In that article, which serves as useful background for this manuscript, Tawil also described treatment options for OUD, the emergence of buprenorphine in 2002, and efforts to increase prescribing of buprenorphine within the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health network of primary care practices. Buprenorphine is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat OUD; the provision of the medication is associated with substantial reductions in all-cause mortality and opioid overdose deaths.
In 2020, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released a focused update to their National Practice Guideline (NPG) for the treatment of OUD.6 The release of this document was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and likely escaped the attention of many providers of buprenorphine treatment. These guidelines contain new recommendations and.... Read the full article.