Physicians Group Advocates Medication for Young Patients with Opioid Use Disorder

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement about treating young patients with opioid use disorder.

Amidst the opioid epidemic, a pediatric advocacy group is recommending physicians treat adolescents and young adults with medication for opioid use disorder.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is an advocacy group of 66,000 pediatricians committed to the general well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Nonmedical use of opioids among adolescents and young adults doubled from 1991 to 2012, according to a press release from the AAP.

The rate of opioid use disorder and opioid-related deaths also increased significantly among this population. AAP has created a new policy statement that will be published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

This policy statement recommends that pediatricians begin considering medication-assisted treatment for younger patients with opioid use disorders. Currently, medication-treatment assistance consists of methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine.

A majority of these can be prescribed to both adolescents and young adults. However, prior authorization and additional training have proven to be a treatment barrier for adult patients, but the AAP urges physicians to consider this as a treatment option.

If a physician cannot prescribe the medication, or does not feel comfortable prescribing the treatment, the patient should be referred to a physician who will provide the treatment. They also recommend increasing resources to improve access to treatments.

The AAP also supports primary and secondary prevention and behavioral interventions, according to the policy statement.

“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 Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, lead author of the policy statement. “This effort by the AAP is a step towards addressing this situation.”