Opioid addiction

High Opioid Use Often Continues Following Overdose

Despite being treated for a non-fatal overdose, a significant amount of Medicaid patients continue to use prescription opioids, according to the results of a recent study.

“Nonfatal overdoses that receive medical attention represent intervention opportunities for clinicians to mitigate risk by reducing opioid prescribing or advocating addiction treatment,” the researchers wrote in a research letter published in JAMA.1

Previous research has indicated that these interventions are underutilized. For their study, the researchers included 6013 Pennsylvania Medicaid enrollees aged 12 to 64 years with a heroin or prescription opioid overdose event overdose event.


They found that any filled opioid prescription decreased from 43.2% to 39.7% following heroin overdose and from 66.1% to 59.6% following prescription opioid overdose. The percentage of individuals with 90 days or more duration of prescription opioids decreased from 10.5% to 9% in the heroin group and 32.5% to 28.3% in the opioid group. Medication-assisted treatment increased from 29.5% to 33% following heroin overdose and from 13.5% to 15.1% following an opioid overdose.

These findings indicate “a relatively weak health system response to a life-threatening event. Several interventions have been shown to reduce overdose risk, including trigger notifications to clinicians for patients treated for overdose and emergency department-initiated naloxone education and distribution,” the authors concluded.2

—Michael Potts


  1. Frazier W, Cochran G, Lo-Ciganic W, et al. Medication-assisted treatment and opioid use before and after overdose in Pennsylvania Medicaid. JAMA. 2017;318(8):750-752.
  2. Medicaid patients continue high prescription opioid use after overdose [press release]. August 22, 2017. https://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/medicaid-patients-continue-high-prescription-opioid-use-overdose/.