Columbia Psychiatrists Receive Grant to Study Model for Integrating Opioid Addiction and Infectious Disease Treatments

Drs. Edward Nunes and Frances Levin will be leading the Columbia site in a 3-site multisite trial to test a new model of treatment for opioid addiction.  

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) will fund the four-year, multisite study at Columbia University along with collaborators at Yale University and the Medical University of South Carolina.

The opioid epidemic has resulted in to the resurgence of deadly infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV, as well as other serious infections, including MRSA and MSSA bacteremia, endocarditis, and osteomyelitis.

Untreated addiction to opioids, referred to medically as opioid use disorder, often impedes the proper treatment of infection and leads to significant illness and long hospitals stays. Unless opioid use disorder is properly treated, patients will go into opioid withdrawal, at which point many will leave the hospital, interrupting critically important antibiotic treatment.

The new treatment model stresses the importance of coupling therapies for opioid use disorder with the management of related infections. Nunes and Levin and their colleagues hope this model will improve patient outcomes by integrating infectious disease treatment with using long-acting injectable buprenorphine, an opioid receptor partial agonist medication that is effective for treatment of opioid use disorder by reducing withdrawal symptoms and craving and preventing relapse to opioid use.

“Hospital-based physicians are used to managing complex infections with antibiotics or combinations,”says Nunes, “yet medication treatment of opioid use disorder has not been standard treatment in most hospitals. We hope to change that.” Treatment will be started in hospital and continued through referral to community resources for long-term care.

Nunes is a Professor of Psychiatry and Levin is Kennedy-Leavy Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division on Substance Use Disorders at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute. 


Opioid Use Disorder