Relaxed Guidelines Around Addiction Medication Prescribing Help Eliminate Some Barriers to Treatment

Published on May 26, 2021

Canaan, CT – The federal government recently relaxed restrictions around the prescribing of buprenorphine, a medication used in the treatment of opioid addiction. The updates include allowing more healthcare workers the ability to prescribe the medication, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certified nurse midwives. The new legislation also removes a rule requiring medical professionals to pass an eight-hour course about buprenorphine.

Given the developments of the last year, these efforts are both welcome and necessary, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for those in need. The pandemic has resulted in increased isolation, financial struggles, and other additional stressors that have likely contributed to increases in rates of opioid overdoses and addiction. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that opioid overdose deaths increased 36 percent, from 49,125 predicted deaths in September 2019 to 66,813 fatalities in September 2020.

Buprenorphine is widely considered an effective addiction medication and, by extension, a valuable tool in combatting this crisis. Because buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, it helps reduce cravings and other debilitating withdrawal symptoms among those recovering from opioid use disorder. A 2020 study of over 40,000 patients with opioid use disorder revealed that those who took buprenorphine were 76 percent less likely to experience an overdose after three months of being treated. Unfortunately, there is still stigma regarding the use of addiction medications as a recovery tool because of the belief that this type of treatment replaces one drug with another.

“Over time, more providers are recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to treating addiction does not work.  We’re proud to offer Medication-Assisted Treatments – including buprenorphine – at all levels of care,” says Randall Dwenger, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Mountainside treatment center. “These medications are groundbreaking because they take cravings off the table, allowing people to live fuller and healthier lives. Medication-assisted treatment is most effective when combined with clinical therapies designed to help people build resilience and better habits for coping with setbacks moving forward.”

“In order to reduce the stigma of opioid use disorder, we need both cultural and policy changes reflecting the notion that addiction is a disease,” adds Dwenger. “These updates are a step in the right direction for patients and providers alike.”

Those who suspect they may be struggling with opioid use disorder should contact a local treatment center to determine if medication-assisted treatment is right for them.