Opioid use disorders are a growing problem among young people. The rate of “nonmedical use” (i.e., use without a prescription or more than prescribed) of opioid medication by adolescents (aged 12-17) and young adults (aged 18-25) more than doubled between 1991-2012, and the rates of opioid use disorders, including
heroin addiction, and fatal opioid overdoses increased in parallel.
In an effort to respond to and reverse these trends, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement, “Medication-Assisted Treatment for Adolescents with Opioid Use Disorders,” published in the September 2016 Pediatrics (published online Aug. 22), recommending that pediatricians consider offering medication-assisted treatments to their adolescent and young adult patients with opioid use disorders or refer them to other providers who can.
“Medication assisted treatment is effective and can help adolescents achieve long term sobriety, but there is currently very limited access to appropriate treatment for youth. While primary care physicians can prescribe buprenorphine and naltrexone more than half of US counties do not have even one single prescriber. Pediatricians who prescribe buprenorphine are exceedingly rare, and family physicians comprise only a minority of available prescribers,” said Dr. Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, lead author of the policy statement. “This effort by the AAP is a step towards addressing this situation.”
The AAP also recommends increasing resources to improve access to medication-assisted treatments. It notes that further research is needed on
treatment of substance abuse disorders in adolescents and young adults.