RTI International Helps Improve Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders

March 01, 2019

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Overdoses and deaths due to opioid use disorder (OUD) have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Although there are approved pharmacological treatments, the rates of opioid abstinence for patients in treatment remain suboptimal. Even when treated with the newest extended-release formulations, only about 40% of patients stay abstinent from opioids during the first 6-months of treatment. These suboptimal rates of opioid abstinence, coupled with the rising number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths, support the assertion by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that research should focus on “pharmacological treatment combined with behavioral interventions.”

To help improve treatment for OUD, Brown University collaborated with RTI International to conduct a large-scale experiment to test different strategies to help opioid treatment centers to learn to implement contingency management in combination with their pharmacological treatments. Contingency management (i.e., motivational incentives for achieving pre-defined treatment goals) is one of the only behavioral interventions shown to improve patient abstinence from opioids when combined with pharmacotherapy. Unfortunately, few opioid treatment centers currently combine contingency management with their pharmacological treatments.

Over the course of this 5-year, NIDA-funded research project, approximately 750 patients from across 30 opioid treatment programs in the New England region of the United States will receive contingency management. Additionally, results of this project may have longer-term implications on how opioid treatment programs are structured in the future.

To learn more about RTI’s work with preventing opioid use disorders, visit rti.org/emerging-issue/opioid-research/preventing-opioid-use-disorders.