Relapse to opioid use disorder after inpatient treatment: Protective effect of injection naltrexone

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Opioid use disorder is often treated with short term hospitalization and medically supervised withdrawal from opioids followed by counseling alone without medication assisted treatment (MAT). More evidence is needed to confirm the expectation that the rate of relapse would be high after short term inpatient treatment and withdrawal from opioids without follow-up MAT.


To examine relapse to opioid use disorder in a randomized, multi-site effectiveness trial of extended-release injection naltrexone (XR-NTX) vs community-based treatment as usual (TAU) without medication, as a function of the type of clinical service where treatment was initiated-short-term inpatient (N=59), long-term inpatient (N=48), or outpatient (N=201). Inpatients typically were admitted to treatment actively using opioids and had completed withdrawal from opioids before study entry. Outpatients typically presented already abstinent for varying periods of time.


One month after randomization, relapse rates on TAU by setting were: short-term inpatient: 63%; long term inpatient: 14%; outpatient: 28%. On XR-NTX relapse rates after one month were low (<12%) across all three settings. At the end of the 6 month trial, relapse rates on TAU were high across all treatment-initiation settings (short term inpatient 77%; long term inpatient 59%; outpatient 61%), while XR-NTX exerted a modest protective effect against relapse across settings (short term inpatient: 59%; long term inpatient 46%; outpatient 38%).


Short term inpatient treatment is associated with a high rate of relapse among patients with opioid use disorder. These findings support the recommendation that medically supervised withdrawal from opioids should be followed by medication assisted treatment.