Barriers to Engagement in Opioid Use Disorder Treatment After Buprenorphine Induction

J Addict Med. 2021 Dec 23. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000943. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Expanded access to buprenorphine induction, including via emergency departments, increases the likelihood of treatment engagement for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD). However, longer-term retention among these patients remains a challenge. In this study, we aimed to identify barriers to engaging and retaining patients with OUD in care and additional services that might improve retention.

Methods: We surveyed counselors at an urban safety net addictions treatment clinic.

Results: Twenty-five of 27 (93%) eligible counselors responded. Counselors described patients who were homeless, had no prior treatment history, or lacked health insurance as hardest to retain in treatment. Housing assistance, residential treatment placement, regular access to a phone, and mental health services were thought to be most beneficial for improving retention. Respondents most often reported that screening for services should happen at intake, and almost all respondents agreed that "retention of patients receiving treatment for OUD would improve with a dedicated case manager and/or more coordinated case management services."

Conclusions: Engagement in OUD treatment would be improved with interventions to mitigate the significant social and psychiatric comorbidities of addiction. Community- and emergency department-initiated buprenorphine is a promising intervention whose full promise cannot be realized without interventions to improve treatment retention.