Published:December 18, 2022DOI:



      Buprenorphine is an effective treatment for opioid use disorders. A previous randomized trial comparing emergency department (ED)-initiated buprenorphine to standard care showed dramatic improvement in follow-up. This is encouraging, but must be replicated to understand the generalizability of buprenorphine treatment.


      Evaluate the efficacy of an ED-initiated buprenorphine protocol similar to a previous randomized trial in a different population.


      This ED-based descriptive study described the results of a project implementing an opioid use disorder treatment protocol that included buprenorphine. Patients with opioid use disorder were offered treatment with buprenorphine, a buprenorphine prescription whenever possible, and a follow-up visit to a clinic providing addiction treatment. The primary outcome was engagement in formal addiction treatment 30 days after the index visit.


      Of the 210 patients who accepted referral for outpatient medication-assisted treatment, 95 (45.2%) achieved the primary outcome. Two-thirds of these patients received a buprenorphine prescription at discharge; 40% were homeless. A regression analysis revealed one statistically significant predictor of the primary outcome: patients who were housed were 2.49 times more likely to engage in opioid use disorder treatment than patients who were homeless (p = 0.02).


      In this descriptive study of an ED-initiated buprenorphine protocol, follow-up was less than that reported in a previous randomized controlled trial. Two important differences between our study and the randomized trial are the high rate of homelessness and the fact that not every patient received a prescription for buprenorphine. The efficacy of ED-initiated treatment may depend on certain population characteristics.


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