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Barriers to and facilitators of pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder in VA residential treatment programs.

Finlay AK, Ellerbe LS, Wong JJ, Timko C, Rubinsky AD, Gupta S, Bowe TR, Burden JL, Harris AHS. Barriers to and facilitators of pharmacotherapy for alcohol use disorder in VA residential treatment programs. Journal of substance abuse treatment. 2017 Jun 1; 77:38-43.

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Among US military veterans, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is prevalent and in severe cases patients need intensive AUD treatment beyond outpatient care. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) delivers intensive, highly structured addiction and psychosocial treatment through residential programs. Despite the evidence supporting pharmacotherapy among the effective treatments for AUD, receipt of these medications (e.g., naltrexone, acamprosate) among patients in residential treatment programs varies widely. In order to better understand this variation, the current study examined barriers and facilitators to use of pharmacotherapy for AUD among patients in VA residential treatment programs. Semi-structured qualitative interviews with residential program management and staff were conducted and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research was used to guide coding and analysis of interview transcripts. Barriers to use of pharmacotherapy for AUD included cultural norms or philosophy against prescribing, lack of access to willing prescribers, lack of interest from leadership, and perceived lack of patient interest or need. Facilitators included cultural norms of openness or active promotion of pharmacotherapy; education for patients, program staff and prescribers; having prescribers on staff, and care coordination within residential treatment and with other clinic settings in and outside VA. Developing and testing improvement strategies to increase care coordination and consistent support from leadership may also yield increases in the use of pharmacotherapy for AUD among residential patients.

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