Initiating buprenorphine treatment during an emergency department visit can significantly increase the likelihood that opioid-dependent patients will seek addiction treatment, according to results of a randomized clinical trial published in April 28 in JAMA.

Researchers randomized 104 opioid-dependent patients who had presented to the ED to screening and treatment referral, screening and a brief intervention with referral to a community-based treatment service, or screening with a brief intervention and ED-initiated treatment with buprenorphine/naloxone and referral to primary care.

Significantly more patients in the buprenorphine group sought addiction treatment in the 30 days after randomization compared to the referral or intervention arms (78% vs. 37% vs. 45%, P < .001), and they showed significant reductions in the number of days of illicit opioid use per week.

“Expanded use of ED-initiated buprenorphine with community follow-up should help increase access to treatment options for this chronic and relapsing medical condition that has substantial morbidity and mortality and that affects health care use and costs,” wrote Dr. Gail D’Onofrio of Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Ct., and coauthors ( JAMA 2015; 313:1636-1644 [doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3474]).

The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the study. Reckitt-Benckiser Pharmaceuticals provided the drug. One author reported honoraria from private industry.