Reducing Pain Pill Overdoses May Be Just a Conversation Away

More than 1,000 people are treated in the emergency room for misusing prescription drugs every day, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). But a low-cost approach to preventing the misuse from turning into an overdose appears effective in a new study.

More than 1,000 people are treated in the emergency room for misusing prescription drugs every day, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). But a low-cost approach to preventing the misuse from turning into an overdose appears effective in a new study.

Researchers from the University of Michigan (U-M) found that motivational interventions with high-risk patients could be enough to lower overdose risk behaviors. One of the best parts about the findings is that positive results were found with just one 30-minute session.

“This intervention was about reducing risk and harm, not necessarily the amount of use, which may have meant the messages were better-received among those who weren’t actively seeking treatment for opioid use,” lead researcher Amy Bohnert, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the U-M Medical School and member of the VA Center for Clinical Management Research, said in a news release.

  • Related: Hold Off on Opioids for Chronic Pain Treatment, CDC Says

In the first clinical trial to study the intervention to reduce overdose risk, the team studied 204 adults who reported opioid misuse within the previous three months. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either enhanced usual care (EUC), or a single 30-minute motivational interviewing-based session delivered by a therapist plus EUC.

At baseline and six months after intervention, all participants filled out surveys to measure the outcomes of overdose risk behaviors. The results showed that the 30-minute intervention coupled with EUC significantly lowered overdose risk behaviors when compared to EUC alone, as described in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“It’s very promising that we see a reduction in risky behavior with this brief, one-time intervention, among people who weren’t seeking treatment for their opioid use but had a history of non-medical use of these drugs,” Bohnert continued.

As it is the case with most studies, more research is needed to determine the long-term impact of the motivational interviewing-based session.

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