Methadone initiation in a bridge clinic for opioid withdrawal and opioid treatment program linkage: a case report applying the 72-hour rule
Addiction Science & Clinical Practice
Background In the United States, methadone for opioid use disorder (OUD) is limited to highly regulated opioid treatment programs (OTPs), rendering it inaccessible to many patients. The "72-hour rule" allows non-OTP providers to administer methadone for emergency opioid withdrawal management while arranging ongoing care. Low-barrier substance use disorder (SUD) bridge clinics provide rapid access to buprenorphine but offer an opportunity to treat acute opioid withdrawal while facilitating OTP
... nkage. We describe the case of a patient with OUD who received methadone for opioid withdrawal in a bridge clinic and linked to an OTP within 72 h. Case presentation A 54-year-old woman with severe OUD was seen in a SUD bridge clinic requesting OTP linkage and assessed with a clinical opiate withdrawal scale (COWS) score of 12. She reported daily nasal use of 1 g heroin/fentanyl. Prior OUD treatment included buprenorphine-naloxone, which was only partially effective. Her acute opioid withdrawal was treated with a single observed oral dose of methadone 20 mg. She returned the following day with persistent opioid withdrawal (COWS score 11) and was treated with methadone 40 mg. On day 3, the patient was successfully admitted to a local OTP, where she remained engaged 3 months later. Conclusions While patients continue to face substantial access barriers, bridge clinics can play an important role in treating opioid withdrawal, building partnerships with OTPs to initiate methadone on demand, and preventing life-threatening delays to methadone treatment. Federal policy reform is urgently needed to make methadone more accessible to people with OUD.