MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, MS
Youth Addiction Specialist
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Boston University School of Medicine
Director, Urban Health and Advocacy Track, Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center
Associate Program Director, Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Almost no data have been available on this topic to date. A recent study showed that teens in subspecialty treatment for opioid addiction were significantly less likely than adults to receive a medication. Our study was the first to comprehensively look across the health care system, including looking at adolescents and young adults diagnosed with opioid use disorder in outpatient clinics, emergency departments, and inpatient hospitals.
We had three important findings. First, looking at a large sample of 9.7 million adolescents and young adults between the age of 13 and 25 years, we found that the number of youth diagnosed with opioid use disorder increased six-fold from 2001 to 2014. This is perhaps not surprising given the national opioid crisis we know to be occurring.
Second, we found that only a minority of youth (1 in 4) received buprenorphine or naltrexone, the two medications available for opioid addiction that can be prescribed in usual medical settings. These two medications are evidence-based and their use is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Utilizing them is critical to ensure that we offer effective treatment early in the life course of addiction, which can help prevent the long-term harms of addiction.
Third, we found significant differences in who received medications. Whereas approximately 1 in 3 young adults in our study received a medication, only 1 in 10 of the 16- and 17-year-olds we studied received one, and among adolescents under 15 years of age, 1 in 67 received a medication. Females were less likely than males to receive medications, as were black youth and Hispanic youth relative to white youth.