Unintentional drug overdose: Is more frequent use of non-prescribed buprenorphine associated with lower risk of overdose?

Robert G. Carlson, Raminta Daniulaityte, Sydney M. Silverstein, Ramzi W. Nahhas, Silvia S. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Unintentional drug overdoses have reached epidemic levels in the U.S. This study tests the hypothesis that people who have used non-prescribed buprenorphine more frequently in the past six months were less likely to experience a drug overdose during that same time period. Methods: Participants age 18 years or older with opioid use disorder who reported use of non-prescribed buprenorphine in the last six months were recruited from the Dayton, Ohio, area using a combination of targeted and modified respondent-driven sampling. Participants completed a structured interview, including six-month timeline follow-back, after informed consent. Logistic regression was used to test the association between (log-transformed) frequency of non-prescribed buprenorphine use and overdose in the previous six months, adjusted for confounding due to sex, homelessness, incarceration, substance use treatment, previous overdose, heroin/fentanyl injection, psychiatric comorbidity, and (log-transformed) frequencies of other (non-opioid) drug use. Results: Almost 89% of 356 participants were white, 50.3% were male, and 78.1% had high school or greater education. Over 27% (n = 98) reported experiencing an overdose in the past six months. After adjusting for confounding, greater frequency of non-prescribed buprenorphine use was significantly associated with lower risk of overdose (AOR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.66, 0.98; p = .0286). Experiencing an overdose more than six months ago (AOR = 2.19, 95% CI = 1.24, 3.97); injection as the most common route of administration of heroin/fentanyl (AOR = 2.49, 95% CI = 1.36, 4.71); and frequency of methamphetamine use (AOR = 1.13, 95% CI = 1.02, 1.27) were strongly associated with increased risk of recent overdose in multivariable analysis. Discussion: The findings support our hypothesis that higher frequency of non-prescribed buprenorphine use is associated with lower risk of drug overdose, a potential harm reduction consequence of diversion. Improving the availability of buprenorphine though standard substance use disorder treatment, primary care, and other innovative methods is urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102722
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Volume79
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020

Keywords

  • Buprenorphine diversion
  • Heroin
  • Non-pharmaceutical fentanyl
  • Unintentional drug overdose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy

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