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This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Addiction Medicine. The published version of record is in Journal of Addiction Medicine, 17(1):p e57-e63, January/February 2023 is available online at:


OBJECTIVES: Rising rates of hospitalization for patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) result in high rates of patient-directed discharge (PDD, also called "discharge against medical advice") and 30-day readmissions. Interdisciplinary addiction consult services are an emerging criterion standard to improve care for these patients, but these services are resource- and expertise-intensive. A set of withdrawal guidelines was developed to guide generalists in caring for patients with opioid withdrawal at a hospital without an addiction consult service.

METHODS: Retrospective chart review was performed to determine PDD, 30-day readmission, and psychiatry consult rates for hospitalized patients with OUD during periods before (July 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018) and after (January 1, 2019, to July 31, 2019) the withdrawal guidelines were implemented. Information on the provision of opioid agonist therapy (OAT) was also obtained.

RESULTS: Use of OAT in patients with OUD increased significantly after guideline introduction, from 23.3% to 64.8% ( P < 0.001). Patient-directed discharge did not change, remaining at 14% before and after. Thirty-day readmissions increased 12.4% to 15.7% ( P = 0.05065). Receiving any OAT was associated with increased PDD and readmission, but only within the postintervention cohort.

CONCLUSIONS: A guideline to facilitate generalist management of opioid withdrawal in hospitalized patients improved the process of care, increasing the use of OAT and decreasing workload on the psychiatry consult services. Although increased inpatient OAT has been previously shown to decrease PDD, in this study PDD and readmission rates did not improve. Guidelines may be insufficient to impact these outcomes.

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