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Opioid-related deaths in Europe: Strategies for a comprehensive approach to address a major public health concern

Alho, Hannu; Dematteis, Maurice; Lembo, Danilo; Maremmani, Icro; Roncero, Carlos; Somaini, Lorenzo

Año: 2020

Use of illicit opioids and misuse of prescription opioids are the main causes of drug-related deaths across the world, and the continuing rise in opioid-related mortality, especially affecting North America, Australia and Europe, is a public health challenge. Strategies that may help to decrease the high levels of opioid-related mortality and morbidity and improve care across Europe include risk assessment and interventions to improve the use of opioid analgesics, e.g. prescription drug-monitoring programmes, education on pain management to reduce opioid prescribing, and the implementation of evidence-based primary prevention programmes to reduce the demand for opioids. For patients who develop opioid use disorder (a chronic and relapsing problematic use of opioids that causes clinical impairment or distress), treatment combining opiate receptor full or partial agonist medications for opioid-use disorder (MOUD) with psychosocial interventions is essential. However, in Europe a substantial proportion of the 1.3 million high-risk opioid users (defined as injecting drug use or regular use of opioids, mainly heroin) remain outside of dedicated treatment programmes. More widespread and easier access to MOUD could reduce mortality levels; via approaches such as primary care-led treatment models, and efforts to improve patient retention and adherence to treatment programmes. Other harm-reduction strategies, such as the use of MOUD at optimal doses, the provision of take-home naloxone, the introduction of supervised drug-consumption facilities, and patient education to reduce the risk of overdose may also be beneficial.

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Palabras clave:

Death; Medications for opioid-use disorder; Opioid use disorder; Mortality; Opiates; Opioids


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