Psychosocial and behavioral therapy in conjunction with medication for opioid use disorder: Patterns, predictors, and association with buprenorphine treatment outcomes

Hillary Samples, Arthur Robin Williams, Stephen Crystal, Mark Olfson

Publication Date: 03/18/2022

Introduction: Current evidence indicates that buprenorphine is a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), though premature medication discontinuation is common. Research on concurrent psychosocial and behavioral therapy services and related outcomes is limited. The goal of this study was to define patterns of OUD-related psychosocial and behavioral therapy services received in the first 6 months after buprenorphine initiation, identify patients’ characteristics associated with service patterns, and examine the course of buprenorphine treatment, including the association of therapy with medication treatment duration. Methods: We analyzed 2013–2018 MarketScan Multi-State Medicaid claims data. The sample included adults aged 18–64 years at buprenorphine initiation with treatment episodes of at least 7 days (n = 61,976). We used group-based trajectory models to define therapy service patterns and multinomial logistic regression to identify pre-treatment patient characteristics associated with therapy trajectories. Multinomial propensity-score weighted Cox proportional hazards regression estimated time to buprenorphine discontinuation and unweighted Cox proportional hazards models estimated risk of adverse health care events during buprenorphine treatment (all-cause and opioid-related inpatient and emergency department services, overdose treatment). Results: We identified three trajectories of psychosocial and behavioral therapy services: none (73.8%), low-intensity (17.2%), and high-intensity (9.0%). Compared to those without therapy, low-intensity and high-intensity service patterns were associated with behavioral health diagnoses and medical treatment for opioid overdose in the baseline period prior to buprenorphine initiation. The hazard of buprenorphine discontinuation was significantly lower for low-intensity (HR = 0.55; 95% CI, 0.54–0.57) and high-intensity (HR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.67–0.74) therapy groups compared to those without therapy services. Yet patients in the high-intensity therapy group had increased risk of opioid-related health care events during buprenorphine treatment, including medical treatment for opioid overdose (HR = 1.29; 95% CI, 1.01–1.64). Conclusion: Most patients received little or no OUD-related psychosocial and behavioral therapy after initiating buprenorphine treatment. Patients who received therapy had characteristics indicating greater treatment needs as well as more complex treatment courses. Concurrent therapy services may help to address premature buprenorphine discontinuation, particularly for patients with high-risk clinical profiles; however, future prospective research should determine whether therapy is effective for extending buprenorphine retention…