Marc R. Larochelle, MD, MPH; Dana Bernson, MPH; Thomas Land, PhD; Thomas J. Stopka, PhD, MHS; Na Wang, MA; Ziming Xuan, ScD, SM; Sarah M. Bagley, MD, MSc; Jane M. Liebschutz, MD, MPH; Alexander Y. Walley, MD, MSc


Background:Opioid overdose survivors have an increased risk for death. Whether use of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) after overdose is associated with mortality is not known.

Objective:To identify MOUD use after opioid overdose and its association with all-cause and opioid-related mortality.

Design:Retrospective cohort study.

Setting:7 individually linked data sets from Massachusetts government agencies.

Participants:17 568 Massachusetts adults without cancer who survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014.

Measurements:Three types of MOUD were examined: methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Exposure to MOUD was identified at monthly intervals, and persons were considered exposed through the month after last receipt. A multivariable Cox proportional hazards model was used to examine MOUD as a monthly time-varying exposure variable to predict time to all-cause and opioid-related mortality.

Results:In the 12 months after a nonfatal overdose, 2040 persons (11%) enrolled in MMT for a median of 5 months (interquartile range, 2 to 9 months), 3022 persons (17%) received buprenorphine for a median of 4 months (interquartile range, 2 to 8 months), and 1099 persons (6%) received naltrexone for a median of 1 month (interquartile range, 1 to 2 months). Among the entire cohort, all-cause mortality was 4.7 deaths (95% CI, 4.4 to 5.0 deaths) per 100 person-years and opioid-related mortality was 2.1 deaths (CI, 1.9 to 2.4 deaths) per 100 person-years. Compared with no MOUD, MMT was associated with decreased all-cause mortality (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR], 0.47 [CI, 0.32 to 0.71]) and opioid-related mortality (AHR, 0.41 [CI, 0.24 to 0.70]). Buprenorphine was associated with decreased all-cause mortality (AHR, 0.63 [CI, 0.46 to 0.87]) and opioid-related mortality (AHR, 0.62 [CI, 0.41 to 0.92]). No associations between naltrexone and all-cause mortality (AHR, 1.44 [CI, 0.84 to 2.46]) or opioid-related mortality (AHR, 1.42 [CI, 0.73 to 2.79]) were identified.

Limitation:Few events among naltrexone recipients preclude confident conclusions.

Conclusion:A minority of opioid overdose survivors received MOUD. Buprenorphine and MMT were associated with reduced all-cause and opioid-related mortality.

Primary Funding Source:National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.


Buprenorphine is an amazing drug when properly used.  I can’t even guess at the number of lives I’ve saved with this agent alone in my career.

Dr. Raymond Oenbrink