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Media opportunity: New Dalhousie University study finds opioid agonist treatment reduces risk of death and rehospitalisation among people who inject drugs

Posted by Communications and Marketing on July 19, 2022 in News

A team of scientists led by Dalhousie University along with researchers in Australia and the United Kingdom has found that opioid agonist treatment, or OAT, can lower the risk of death and recurrent infections linked to injection drug use following hospitalisation.

Opioid agonist treatment, which involves medications like methadone and buprenorphine, prevents opioid withdrawal symptoms and allows people to reduce or avoid the use of illegal opioids, like heroin or fentanyl. OAT has been shown to be highly effective at reducing overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C virus infections, but there has been little research on whether the treatment prevents recurrent bacterial infections after patients leave the hospital.

Dr. Thomas Brothers, a general internal medicine resident at Dalhousie, led the study with Australia's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, or NDARC. The team identified 8,940 people with opioid use disorder who were admitted to hospitals in New South Wales between 2001 and 2018 with injecting-related infections, including skin and soft-tissue infection, sepsis, endocarditis, septic arthritis, and brain or spine abscesses.

In the new paper in PLOS Medicine, the researchers outline how the use of the treatment after discharge resulted in fewer re-hospitalisations for injecting-related infections and fewer deaths. Dr. Brothers and colleagues conclude that hospitals should facilitate access to OAT for patients with injecting-related infections, an issue he assessed in an earlier study that looked at the provision of the treatment in hospitals in the Maritimes.

Dr. Brothers, who is also a NDARC Visiting Fellow and a PhD student at University College London, is available to discuss the findings and how OAT should be considered as part of a treatment strategy for injecting-related infections as well as other health risks, like HIV and hepatitis C.


Media contacts:

Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Communications, Marketing & Creative Services
Dalhousie University
Cell: 902-220-0491



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