Rutgers study finds gaps in treatment for prescription opioid use
NEWARK – A one-of-a-kind study at the Rutgers School of Health Professions uses an MRI-determined algorithm of brain structure and function to help determine whether people seeking treatment for a disorder related to the use of prescription opioids are properly recovered or require additional care.
Suchismita Ray, associate professor in the Department of Health Informatics and lead investigator of the study, said the diagnostic technique has so far involved 21 people receiving treatment for opioid abuse and 21 people who haven’t. reported no history of opioid use.
In fact, much of what the study aims to find are discrepancies in what people report about their relationship with prescription opioids, according to Ray.
She said people are often diagnosed on the basis of what they themselves tell healthcare professionals, and if they no longer experience food cravings, they may believe they no longer need treatment. .
Rutgers’ examination of the brain network that governs drug cravings works to supplement or contradict these self-reports.
“In fact, the patient may not know they need more treatment. So that’s where our algorithm plays a big role,” Ray said.
Ray said nearly half of people who develop dependence on prescription opioids relapse within three months of stopping treatment. If that study grows, she said the exact point of satisfactory completion of treatment could be identified.
“When the person comes out of the treatment center, we can also match that person’s brain with these two standards, either control or opioids, and we can see if they still meet the criteria,” Ray said. “Our technique can actually help decrease opioid relapses and decrease overdose deaths.”
Ideally, Ray said, people recovering from a prescription opioid use disorder should be monitored daily.
“See where that person is, to see what kind of stress the person is going through, what kind of treatment they are going through, so that they don’t relapse,” she said.
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