Primary care for opioid use disorder
Paolo Mannelli,1 Li-Tzy Wu1–4
1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 2Department of Medicine, 3Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University Medical Center, 4Center for Child and Family Policy, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
Recent reports on prescription opioid misuse and abuse have described unprecedented peaks of a national crisis and the only answer is to expand prevention and treatment, including different levels of care.1 Nonetheless, concerns remain about the ability of busy primary care settings to manage problem opioid users along with other patients. In particular, proposed extensions of buprenorphine treatment, a critically effective intervention for opioid use disorder (OUD), are cautiously considered due to the potential risk of misuse or abuse.2 General practitioners are already facing this burden daily in the treatment of chronic pain, and expert supervision and treatment model adjustment are needed to help improve outcomes. Approximately 20% of patients in primary care have noncancer pain symptoms, with most of them receiving opioid prescriptions by their physicians, and their number is increasing.3 Pain diagnoses are comparable in severity to those of tertiary centers and are complicated by significant psychiatric comorbidity, with a measurable lifetime risk of developing OUD.4,5 Some primary care physicians report frustration about opioid abuse and diversion by their patients; support from pain specialists would improve their competence, the quality f their performance, and the ability to identify patients at risk of opioid misuse.6 Thus, buprenorphine treatment should not be adding to a complex clinical scenario. To this end, the promising models of care emphasize the integration of medical with psychological and pharmacological expertise for the management of OUD.
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