Pharmacotherapies, notably agonist therapies, have been found to be effective in the treatment of various substance use disorders. In particular, the use of agonists such as naltrexone, acamprosate, buprenorphine methadone have been found to be especially promising against alcohol and opioid use disorders. However, there lack well-established outcomes from studies that focus on evaluating real-world improvements against key social or health outcomes. A recent study considered first-of-its kind by researchers from four universities demonstrated the efficacy of these agonist therapies in reducing suicidal behavior and accidental overdose in a study of 21,000 respondents in Sweden. The findings revealed by researchers from Örebro University, Sweden, the University of Colorado, the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, and the University of Oxford, could pave way for more effective strategies on reducing the burden of substance use disorder on public health across the globe.
The findings of the study were published recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Medications Significantly Improved Health and Social Outcomes
The three key health and social outcomes against which the researchers sought to evaluate the efficacy of one of the four medications were suicidal behavior, accidental overdose, and arrests for crime. The researchers measured the outcomes in respondents in the period when they received these medications and the duration for which they weren’t given these agonist substances. The found that most of the medications fared well with all the outcome measures. In fact, these medications reduced the risk of suicidal behavior by as much as 40 percent and accidental overdoses by 25 percent. The incidences of arrest for any crime and severe crime were reduced by as much as 23 percent and 35 percent respectively.
Further Studies needed to explain Less Effectiveness of Methadone as Agonist
With the rising instances of premature deaths from the overdose of prescription and illicit opioids in worldwide populations, a severe fallout is reduced life expectancy. The instances of nonfatal overdoses are also fairly common, established several of the previous studies. The findings of this study are useful in public health policies pertaining to reducing the several co-morbidities of drug and alcohol use such as premature death and disability among worldwide populations.
However, the researchers found that methadone failed to effectively reduce drug overdose compared to other medications. They surmises that the undesired outcome could be partly due to the use of the agonist agent usually along with other medications.