In response to the COVID-19 public health crisis in 2020, PCORI launched an initiative to enhance existing research projects so that they could offer findings related to COVID-19. The initiative funded this study and others.
What was this COVID-19 study about?
In opioid use disorder, or OUD, people use opioids in ways that cause impairment and distress. One way to treat OUD is with medicine. Support people, including friends and family, can help patients stay on their OUD medicine. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation and stress made it hard for support people to help patients stay on their treatment.
In this study, the research team compared two approaches to improve support people’s and patient’s mental health and support people’s efforts to help patients to stay on OUD medicine:
- A group telehealth program. The program included 10 weekly, one-hour group video sessions for support people. A trained counselor led sessions about OUD medicine, ways to help patients with OUD stay on treatment, and how support people can increase their social support.
- Usual care. Support people could use services such as counseling and primary care to support their mental health.
What were the results?
After three months, the two approaches didn’t differ in the percentage of patients staying on OUD medicine.
Support people in the group program reported less impairment from the patient’s OUD on their work, home, and social life than support people in usual care.
Compared with usual care, patients who had support people in the group program:
- Didn’t differ in their level of impairment from OUD
- Reported higher social support
The two groups didn’t differ in support people’s or patients’ depression, anxiety, or relationship strength and conflict.
Who was in the study?
The study included 100 pairs of patients with OUD and their support people. Support people could be patients’ partners, parents, adult children, or friends.
Of support people, 56 percent were White, 17 percent were more than one race, 10 percent were Hispanic or Latino, and 8 percent were Black. Also, 3 percent were Alaska Native or American Indian, 1 percent were Asian, 1 percent were Native Hawaiian, and 4 percent identified as another race. The average age was 48, and 80 percent were women. Patients received care from one of five community health clinics in California.
What did the research team do?
The research team assigned support people by chance to the group telehealth program or usual care. All patients continued receiving medicine to treat OUD.
At the start of the study and three months later, patients and support people completed surveys. Surveys asked about depression and anxiety symptoms, strength of relationships, conflict in relationships, social support, and harm from the patients’ OUD. The research team reviewed patients’ health records to assess OUD medicine use.
A panel of patients with OUD, support people, doctors, health insurers, and policy makers helped design the study.
What were the limits of the study?
Of support people assigned to the group telehealth program, 75 percent didn’t attend any sessions. Results may have differed if support people had attended more sessions.
How can people use the results?
Health clinics can consider the results when working to help patients stay on OUD medicine and improve support people’s mental health.
|PCORI identified treatment for opioid use disorder as an important research topic. Patients, clinicians, and others wanted to learn: Can counseling, support groups, and similar programs help patients who are getting medicine-based treatment for opioid use disorder? To help answer this question, PCORI launched an initiative in 2018 on Psychosocial Interventions with Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) for Opioid Use Disorder. The initiative funded this research project and others.