Thursday, February 27, 2014

Can Alcohol Dependent Patients Adhere to an ‘As-Needed' Medication Regimen? Yes: Study

According to researchers, AUD patients can benefit from as-needed medication regimens:


A pooled analysis of ‘as-needed medication use' data from 1,276 patients in two randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trials of nalmefene in the treatment of alcohol dependence was performed to explore whether an ‘as-needed' regimen is an acceptable and feasible strategy in patients seeking help for alcohol dependence. Adherence was defined as alcohol consumption and medication intake, or no alcohol consumption (with or without medication intake). Nalmefene was taken on approximately half of the study days; placebo was taken more often than nalmefene (52.8 vs. 64.5% of days, respectively). In each treatment group medication intake appeared to vary according to patients' needs in that intake correlated with the baseline drinking pattern. Sixty-eight percent of the nalmefene-treated patients (78% of the study completers) adhered to the as-needed treatment regimen on at least 80% of the study days. In conclusion, as-needed use is a feasible, patient-centred approach that engages patients with alcohol dependence in the active management of their illness. © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel

Friday, February 21, 2014

Researchers Take a Novel Approach to Vivitrol Induction

Researchers and clinicians at Duke University performed a small, open label study to test a new induction protocol for opioid detoxification in an outpatient setting. Much has been written about the pros and cons of antagonist medication for opioid dependence, with most evidence supporting agonist medications like buprenorphine or methadone. One of the most difficult aspects of maintenance antagonist treatment is the detoxification and induction phases of treatment, considering the intolerability of the experience to most patients - especially those in outpatient settings. So, the authors of a new study, published recently in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, sought to make this experience a little more tolerable. The administered increasing doses of naltrexone and decreasing doses of buprenorphine to treatment-seeking opioid addicts until their first dose of extended-release injectable naltrexone (Vivitrol). The results were encouraging:



The approval of extended release injectable naltrexone (XR-NTX; Vivitrol®) has introduced a new option for treating opioid addiction, but studies are needed to identify its place within the spectrum of available therapies. The absence of physiological opioid dependence is a necessary and challenging first step for starting XR-NTX. Outpatient detoxification gives poor results and inpatient detoxification is either unavailable or too brief for the physiological effects of opioids to resolve. Here we present findings from an open label study that tested whether the transition from opioid addiction to XR-NTX can be safely and effectively performed in an outpatient setting using very low dose naltrexone and buprenorphine.


Twenty treatment seeking opioid addicted individuals were given increasing doses of naltrexone starting at 0.25 mg with decreasing doses of buprenorphine starting at 4 mg during a 7-day outpatient XR-NTX induction procedure. Withdrawal discomfort, craving, drug use, and adverse events were assessed daily until the XR-NTX injection, then weekly over the next month.


Fourteen of the 20 participants received XR-NTX and 13 completed weekly assessments. Withdrawal, craving, and opioid or other drug use were significantly lower during induction and after XR-NTX administration compared with baseline, and no serious adverse events were recorded.


Outpatient transition to XR-NTX combining upward titration of very low dose naltrexone with downward titration of low dose buprenorphine was safe, well tolerated, and completed by most participants. Further studies with larger numbers of subjects are needed to see if this approach is useful for naltrexone induction.

Mean opioid withdrawal and craving scores during induction and after naltrexone extended release administration (Days 1-9), using SOWS (Subjective Opioid Withdrawal Scale), COWS (Clinical Opioid Withdrawal Scale) and VAS (Visual Analog Scale) for craving. Time point scores are the results of the mean score of each day of treatment, error bars represent + -1 SEM. Number of participants is reported on the X-axis.

In-treatment proportion of opioid positive urine samples (Day1-9, N = 20).


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Computerized Vs In-Person Brief Intervention for Drug Misuse: RCT

We have written much about the challenges of widespread implementation of SBIRT in the US. Well, authors of a new study, published online this month in the journal, Addiction, have suggested a novel tool which they believe could help ensure that scores of additional patients are being screened: computerized brief intervention. And according to their study, it works as well and the in-person version:


Background and aims

Several studies have found that brief interventions (BIs) for drug misuse have superior effectiveness to no-treatment controls. However, many health centers do not provide BIs for drug use consistently due to insufficient behavioral health staff capacity. Computerized BIs for drug use are a promising approach, but their effectiveness compared with in-person BIs has not been established. This study compared the effectiveness of a computerized brief intervention (CBI) to an in-person brief intervention (IBI) delivered by a behavioral health counselor.


Two-arm randomized clinical trial, conducted in two health centers in New Mexico, USA. Participants were 360 adult primary care patients with moderate-risk drug scores on the Alcohol, Smoking, and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST) who were randomly assigned on a 1:1 basis to a computerized brief intervention (CBI) or to an in-person brief intervention (IBI) delivered by a behavioral health counselor. Assessments were conducted at baseline and 3-month follow-up, and included the ASSIST and drug testing on hair samples.


The IBI and CBI conditions did not differ at 3 months on global ASSIST drug scores (b=-1.79; 95% CI=-4.37,-0.80) or drug-positive hair tests (OR=.97; 95% CI= 0.47,1.94). There was a statistically significant advantage of CBI over IBI in substance-specific ASSIST scores for marijuana (b=-1.73; 95% CI= -2.91,-0.55; Cohen's d=.26; p=.004) and cocaine (b= -4.48; 95% CI= -8.26,-0.71; Cohen's d=.50; p=.037) at 3 months.


Computerized brief intervention can be an effective alternative to in-person brief intervention for addressing moderate drug use in primary care.

What do you think - could computerized brief interventions be the key to widespread SBIRT implementation?


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gaps in Clinical Prevention and Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders

Dr W's article, "Gaps in Clinical Prevention and Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders" was published this month online in the journal Alcohol Research: Current Reviews. Here's the abstract:


Heavy drinking causes significant morbidity, premature mortality, and other social and economic burdens on society, prompting numerous prevention and treatment efforts to avoid or ameliorate the prevalence of heavy drinking and its consequences. However, the impact on public health of current selective (i.e., clinical) prevention and treatment strategies is unclear. Screening and brief counseling for at-risk drinkers in ambulatory primary care has the strongest evidence for efficacy, and some evidence indicates this approach is cost-effective and reduces excess morbidity and dysfunction. Widespread implementation of screening and brief counseling of nondependent heavy drinkers outside of the medical context has the potential to have a large public health impact. For people with functional dependence, no appropriate treatment and prevention approaches currently exist, although such strategies might be able to prevent or reduce the morbidity and other harmful consequences associated with the condition before its eventual natural resolution. For people with alcohol use disorders, particularly severe and recurrent dependence, treatment studies have shown improvement in the short term. However, there is no compelling evidence that treatment of alcohol use disorders has resulted in reductions in overall disease burden. More research is needed on ways to address functional alcohol dependence as well as severe and recurrent alcohol dependence.

And check out the full piece here:

Monday, February 10, 2014

Study: Healthcare Utilization Rates After Treatment Are Equivalent Among Abstinent and Low-Risk Drinkers

A fascinating new study will add to the small, but growing, treatment literature suggesting that low-risk drinking is a viable option for people receiving treatment for alcohol-use disorders. The paper, published this month in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, measured healthcare utilization rates and associated costs over a 5-year period among clients receiving treatment in a large Northern California healthcare system. The results show that outcomes for abstainers and lower-risk drinkers were equivalent (and far better than the high-risk drinkers), despite the fact that the abstinence-based treatment received by all groups was the same.

According to the authors, "The finding that lower-risk drinkers did not differ from those of abstinent individuals, in inpatient use in particular, even when controlling for patient characteristics, suggests that a health policy perspective may consider benefits of lower-risk drinking."

Here's the abstract via Wiley:


Lower-risk drinking is increasingly being examined as a treatment outcome for some patients following addiction treatment. However, few studies have examined the relationship between drinking status (lower-risk drinking in particular) and healthcare utilization and cost, which has important policy implications.


Participants were adults with alcohol dependence and/or abuse diagnoses who received outpatient alcohol and other drug treatment in a private, nonprofit integrated healthcare delivery system and had a follow-up interview 6 months after treatment entry (N = 995). Associations between past 30-day drinking status at 6 months (abstinence, lower-risk drinking defined as nonabstinence and no days of 5+ drinking, and heavy drinking defined as 1 or more days of 5+ drinking) and repeated measures of at least 1 emergency department (ED), inpatient or primary care visit, and their costs over 5 years were examined using mixed-effects models. We modeled an interaction between time and drinking status to examine trends in utilization and costs over time by drinking group.


Heavy drinkers and lower-risk drinkers were not significantly different from the abstainers in their cost or utilization at time 0 (i.e., 6 months postintake). Heavy drinkers had increasing odds of inpatient (p < 0.01) and ED (p < 0.05) utilization over 5 years compared with abstainers. Lower-risk drinkers and abstainers did not significantly differ in their service use in any category over time. No differences were found in changes in primary care use among the 3 groups over time. The cost analyses paralleled the utilization results. Heavy drinkers had increasing ED (p < 0.05) and inpatient (p < 0.001) costs compared with the abstainers; primary care costs did not significantly differ. Lower-risk drinkers did not have significantly different medical costs compared with those who were abstinent over 5 years. However, post hoc analyses found lower-risk drinkers and heavy drinkers to not significantly differ in their ED use or costs over time.


Performance measures for treatment settings that consider treatment outcomes may need to take into account both abstinence and reduction to nonheavy drinking. Future research should examine whether results are replicated in harm reduction treatment, or whether such outcomes are found only in abstinence-based treatment.
Figure 1 shows Adjusted odds ratios of utilization by 6-month drinking group over time:

Figure 2 shows Adjusted average costs per member month by 6-month drinking group over time:


As mentioned above, these are the results from patients who attended abstinence-based treatment. It will be
interesting to see if these results are replicated among patients who are instructed on low-risk drinking. What experience do readers have with this issue? Do results like these make those directing abstinence-based programs think twice about the policy? It would be great to hear from you.

Hat tip: Thanks, Dr Reid Hester, for bringing this study to our attention.

Source: Kline‐Simon, A. H., Weisner, C. M., Parthasarathy, S., Falk, D. E., Litten, R. Z., & Mertens, J. R. (2013). Five‐Year Healthcare Utilization and Costs Among Lower‐Risk Drinkers Following Alcohol Treatment. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SAMHSA Releases State and National Behavioral Health Barometer

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently released its yearly report on the general state of behavioral health needs and services in the US. Based on population and treatment-facility data sets from state to state, the Behavioral Health Barometer is a sweeping, in-depth look into adolescent and adult drug use, treatment and mental health service utilization.

Among the highlights:
- Nationally, youth and young adult use of nonmedical pain relievers is declining in general.
- Past-month cigarette use among teens nationally and locally is declining, although Minnesota saw a small increase in 2011-2012
-Over 50% of Minnesota adolescents, and over 60% of adolescents nationally, did not receive treatment for their past-year depressive episode.
-In Minnesota, only 6.6% of people with past-year alcohol dependence received treatment. For illicit drugs, the number is 14.6%
-In Minnesota, while the number of people receiving methadone treatment has increased by nearly 1000 people since 2008, the number of people receiving buprenorphine has actually decreased in that time (owing to a sharp drop from 2008-2009.

The national report is here:

Read the MN report here:

And find your state here: