New weapon in the fight against opioid use disorder


New research presented at the 2022 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting evaluated the program to help address the opioid epidemic.


“The opioid epidemic has raged despite the development of evidence-based treatments for opioid use disorder,” Kimberly Hu, MD, explained to the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. “About 70% of the nearly 71,000 drug overdose deaths in 8 states involved opioids. That’s a huge and staggering number.

Recognizing the role that insufficient access to medicines is playing in this epidemic, Hu and his colleagues from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, designed and implemented an Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) curriculum for third-year medical students. Students (n=405) received in-person or virtual buprenorphine waiver training and in-person clinical experiences between January 2019 and April 2021. Pre- and post-intervention testing, as well as self-reported clinical management surveys , assessed the students’ ability to screen patients with OUD and manage acute and chronic pain. Paired-sample t-tests were estimated to assess improvement in knowledge and approach to principles of clinical management.

Hu, a resident at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and his colleagues saw a statistically significant increase in their knowledge, as shown by pre- and post-test scores, as well as their self-reported understanding of management principles. A follow-up study at the end of the year also provided positive feedback. Hu said, “83% [of the participants] said they felt they knew how to manage acute pain, about 62% felt they knew how to manage chronic pain, and about 77% said they knew how to screen for opioid use disorder in the patient. This is important no matter what specialty students are pursuing, as these students will be able to “link patients to resources early and ensure that there are no patients falling through the cracks,” said Hu explained.

She noted that training third-year medical students gives them and their future patients an edge. “They’re just over halfway through medical school and then they’ll go into residency in a number of different specialties. So giving them this knowledge early helps them integrate [the information and skills] while continuing their education.

Hu noted that the educational program is ongoing and supported by the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration. Co-authors of her study included Julie Niedermier, MD; Amanda Start, PhD; Casia Horseman, MD; and Julie Teater, MD.

“If we can educate the next generation of doctors and increase access to care, that’s one way to tackle the opioid crisis,” Hu concluded.

Are you attending the 2022 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting? We want to hear your thoughts! Share recaps, thoughts and experiences with us at [email protected] Be sure to visit us at booth 1852.


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