Recent estimates suggest that the opioid crisis caused over 100,000 deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating the severity of the problem and the need for more effective solutions.
Researchers from Washington State University revealed in a new study that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may help opioid addicts reduce their methadone dosage and more effectively handle pain and withdrawal symptoms.
The first and second pilot studies, respectively, were released in the journals of pain management nursing and the journal of addictions nursing. To examine the effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a treatment that includes inhaling pure oxygen in a pressurised setting, the research team enlisted subjects who were registered in a nearby opioid treatment programme.
In the first paper, a pilot study involving 31 participants reveals that those who had received hyperbaric oxygen therapy as part of a deliberate methadone taper were able to sustain a significantly larger dose reduction of 4.3 mg three months after the study, as opposed to 0.25 mg in participants who had not received the therapy.
After just one day of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, they also reported a halving of the amount of withdrawal symptoms compared to the control group. The results indicate that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be utilised as a non-pharmacological aid to assist people in weaning themselves off of methadone treatment.
A more in-depth examination of the reduction of withdrawal symptoms was conducted in the second research, a modest randomised controlled trial with only eight individuals. In comparison to control participants who had received an oxygen mixture comparable to room air supplied at normal atmospheric pressure, it was discovered that participants in the hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment group experienced less severe pain and drug cravings.
Other outcomes, like mood and sleep quality, also showed benefits, according to the researchers.
The researchers are seeking funding for a clinical trial to confirm their findings in a larger sample of people who would be tracked for several years based on the combined findings from the two investigations.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may develop into a non-pharmacological technique. The healthcare professionals can employ it to assist patients in managing their pain and possibly cut back on their opioid use if these results are confirmed in a bigger clinical trial.