Medical hospitalizations for people with opioid use disorder (OUD) frequently result in patient-directed discharges (PDD), often due to untreated pain and withdrawal.
To investigate the association between early opioid withdrawal management strategies and PDD.
Retrospective cohort study using three datasets representing 362 US hospitals.
Adult patients hospitalized between 2009 and 2015 with OUD (as identified using ICD-9-CM codes or inpatient buprenorphine administration) and no PDD on the day of admission.
Opioid withdrawal management strategies were classified based on day-of-admission receipt of any of the following treatments: (1) medications for OUD (MOUD) including methadone or buprenorphine, (2) other opioid analgesics, (3) adjunctive symptomatic medications without opioids (e.g., clonidine), and (4) no withdrawal treatment.
PDD was assessed as the main outcome and hospital length of stay as a secondary outcome.
Of 6,715,286 hospitalizations, 127,158 (1.9%) patients had OUD and no PDD on the day of admission, of whom 7166 (5.6%) had a later PDD and 91,051 (71.6%) patients received some early opioid withdrawal treatment (22.3% MOUD; 43.4% opioid analgesics; 5.9% adjunctive medications). Compared to no withdrawal treatment, MOUD was associated with a lower risk of PDD (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.73, 95%CI 0.68-0.8, p < .001), adjunctive treatment alone was associated with higher risk (aOR = 1.13, 95%CI: 1.01-1.26, p = .031), and treatment with opioid analgesics alone was associated with similar risk (aOR 0.95, 95%CI: 0.89-1.02, p = .148). Among those with PDD, both MOUD (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR] = 1.24, 95%CI: 1.17-1.3, p < .001) and opioid analgesic treatments (aIRR = 1.39, 95%CI: 1.34-1.45, p < .001) were associated with longer hospital stays.
MOUD was associated with decreased risk of PDD but was utilized in < 1 in 4 patients. Efforts are needed to ensure all patients with OUD have access to effective opioid withdrawal management to improve the likelihood they receive recommended hospital care.