Buprenorphine Access Growing for Opioid Use Disorders

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In the fight against the growing opioid crisis, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is considered one of the most effective treatment options. This evidence-based approach uses FDA-approved medications like buprenorphine and methadone to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Combined with addiction counseling, MAT has been shown to reduce the risk of relapses and overdosing.

Sadly, heavy restrictions on buprenorphine have limited access to this medication. However, new regulations have reduced barriers to buprenorphine, allowing more patients to obtain this life-saving treatment.

What Is Buprenorphine?

In 2002, buprenorphine was approved as an additional MAT treatment option. While methadone is the gold standard of opioid treatment, buprenorphine’s ceiling effect prevents euphoric symptoms and reduces the risk of misuse. As part of a MAT program, a buprenorphine compound called Suboxone® containing naloxone offers a safe, take-home treatment. This allows patients to fill a prescription at a pharmacy rather than visit a location offering an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP).

Regulations on Buprenorphine

For many years, heavy federal regulations have restricted buprenorphine access. Patients could only obtain prescriptions from specialized OTPs or doctors who completed an eight-hour training course through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In addition, the regulations only allowed each provider to treat up to 30 patients at a time.

These provisions were intended to increase access to buprenorphine in qualified healthcare settings and avoid overprescribing. Instead, they restricted the reach of this highly effective opioid addiction treatment. Many doctors found the stipulations too restrictive and were reluctant to become waivered providers. Physicians that could provide buprenorphine treatment quickly filled up on their 30 patient limit. Because of this, struggling patients found it difficult to find doctors able to prescribe buprenorphine.

Increased Access to Treatment for Opioid Addiction Using Buprenorphine

New guidelines on prescribing buprenorphine were instated in April 2021. They reduce barriers to opioid treatment and open the door for patients to receive a buprenorphine prescription. According to the Health and Human Services Secretary, any state-licensed provider registered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can obtain a special permit called an x-waiver. This means doctors, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners and more can prescribe buprenorphine to up to 30 patients.

The Benefits of Increased Buprenorphine Access

Increased access to life-saving buprenorphine is expected to have many incredible benefits for people from all backgrounds struggling with opioid addiction, including:

 

  • Encouraging timely and convenient initiation of buprenorphine treatment.
  • Supporting patient retention.
  • Reducing barriers for marginalized populations, including minorities, homeless individuals, the uninsured and those involved in the justice system.
  • Decreasing the risk of relapse and overdose.

 

Buprenorphine and Methadone MAT Available at BAART Programs

If you’re struggling with opioid addiction, BAART Programs offers evidence-based treatment to people across the country. Our comprehensive program is tailored to your needs. Methadone and buprenorphine are highly effective at treating opioid addiction. Our providers work with you to determine which medication will best help you, and we couple this treatment with addiction counseling and community resources.

Find a BAART Programs location near you and reach out for more information.

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