Hospitalization is a “reachable moment” for many people with opioid use disorders — they are in a safe space removed from environments that may promote drug use and, with an acute medical issue, they may be reflecting on the consequences of their addiction and open to solutions to help them enter recovery. We need to do a better job building systems and training health care professionals to adequately treat opioid use disorder in the hospital and to connect patients with ongoing outpatient treatment and support.
At the vast majority of the 6,000 acute care hospitals in the U.S., patients with opioid use disorder are typically offered little more than detoxification. In one large academic hospital, for example, fewer than 10% of patients with heart infections from intravenous drug use were provided access to drug treatment programs.
Patients who are offered medications to treat opioid use disorder do much better.