Addressing the challenges with treating opiate addiction

A recent story posted on the NPR website shares information from a study done by the Rand Corporation, which finds that physicians who are qualified to prescribe buprenorphine (Suboxone) typically see only a small number of opioid-addicted patients.

The piece also speaks to the struggle, especially in rural areas, for patients to access the counseling that is supposed to supplement medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Clearly there are multiple reasons why a proven treatment like buprenorphine is not being made more readily available to those living with opioid use disorder. Steps are being taken by the government and by health-care organizations to try and change this, however.

Locally, Acadia Hospital has been awarded a small grant to train a few interested primary care providers and provide them with training and support as they open their practice to individuals with opioid use disorder. The hope is that the effort will provide a model that will lead to additional qualified providers offering this effective treatment to those in need.

“The CHLB grant is a small but significant step in reducing the barriers for patients seeking help for opioid addiction in their primary care provider’s office,” comments Acadia Hospital Medical Director of Outpatient Services Vijay Amarendran, MD, MS. “Primary care providers will play a significant role in our response to the opioid epidemic and we are optimistic that this grant will help more primary care providers take on prescribing Buprenorphine.”

On a broader scale, a major development is the passing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). This is the first major federal addiction legislation in 40 years, and the most comprehensive effort undertaken to address the opioid epidemic, encompassing all six pillars necessary for such a coordinated response – prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform, and overdose reversal.