Nearly all doctors can freely prescribe opioids. Now a new movement aims to vastly deregulate an addiction treatment

Nearly all doctors can freely prescribe opioids. Now a new movement aims to vastly deregulate an addiction treatment

WASHINGTON — Eighteen state public health directors, a growing group of physicians, and a prominent member of Congress are pushing a dramatic expansion of substance use treatment by posing a simple question: Why can’t doctors who prescribe opioids also prescribe drugs to treat opioid addiction?

Their push to deregulate use of buprenorphine, which is used to lessen opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms, would represent a fundamental shift in U.S. substance abuse treatment. The medication — and addiction medicine in general — are highly regulated, largely due to fears that opioid-based treatment drugs like buprenorphine and methadone could be misused.

This week, the effort will gain support from Washington: Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) will soon introduce legislation to allow any medical practitioner licensed to prescribe controlled substances to prescribe buprenorphine, he told STAT. Currently, physicians must undergo an eight-hour training to prescribe the drug — 24 hours for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

“These professionals can use their training and skill and ability to provide medication for treatment of pain,” Tonko said in an interview. “But when it comes to addressing the illness of addiction, they have to jump through additional hoops.”

The bill, Tonko said, “removes unnecessary obstacles and really expands the access we’ve created to provide for treatment on demand.”

Tonko’s push — though in its early stages — gives formal backing to an effort by treatment advocates who have long argued the federal government’s response to a crisis claiming 50,000 lives each year has been irresponsibly slow and at times counterproductive.

This month, top health officials in 18 states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia wrote health secretary Alex Azar urging him to relax restrictions on the addiction medication.

Deregulating buprenorphine would make it far easier for Americans to get addiction care from their own doctors instead of being pushed through bureaucratic hoops and into treatment programs of varying quality, said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of the Brandeis University Opioid Policy Research Collaborative. Currently, just 1 in 20 doctors have obtained the license necessary to prescribe it.

“For your average person who is opioid-addicted, who may have a relationship with their primary care doctor who they know and trust,” Kolodny said, “there’s a 95% chance that doctor is going to have to say: Well, let’s find a place to send you.”

The movement, however, appears to lack institutional support from major addiction medicine groups, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents mental health and addiction providers, has no position on the proposal.

Opponents of deregulating addiction medicine say it could encourage more people to use buprenorphine illegally. In recent years, the Drug Enforcement Administration has raided the offices of numerous physicians who prescribe buprenorphine, including a leading addiction doctor in Tennessee and the past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, to investigate whether the high-volume treatment facilities had effectively become “pill mills.”


6 Responses

  1. Well that’s just brilliant…buprenorphine is the 3rd most diverted drug for illicit use. So let’s vastly increase the tonnage of it flying around!! Kolodny will make a zillion more dollars off it, then we’ll start reading stories about a “BUPRENORPHINE EPIDEMIC!!” Then he can force the gajillion bupe addicts into his addiction treatment centers & make even MORE money from it! This guy is a truly evil genius.

    Why is anyone still listening to this schmuck?!?!

    Whatever happened to the whole Invidior lawsuit?

  2. Hey I know,,stake all the monies/assets the DEA STOLE from innoceny doctors,,and use it to fund pain research ONLY,,,kOLODNY WANTS THE DAYS OF PENNHURST AND WAVERLY BACK,,, and with his push to deem all medically ill people who take the MEDICINE opiates LTOU,,OR OUD,,,,HE WANTS all medically ill people locked up in his new Waverly’s,,,,his new penhurst,,,,When history has shown,,,and recent data has shown,,,65 % of people in the residential facilities DO NOT feel safe,,,,25 % report abuse by staff,,kolodny own backyard is a messs,,,his field of psychiatry has committed 10 of thee worse human atrocities known to mankind,,,,he is #11,,,maryw

  3. Obviously the decision to attack chronic pain patients is the goal and was made at a very high level.

  4. NO, Drs can NOT freely Perscribe opiods Period! The Same problem exists and that’s the scumbag DEA Still using the laws the DEA Created!


    It’s a trap!
    Note last paragraph:
    Doctors raided.
    They say it’s legal, then it isn’t…

  6. Let’s make sure the addicts can get opiate treatment but don’t dare prescribe for people in pain! This makes NO sense, both addicts and pain patients NEED treatment. Heres an idea, lets take all the tax payer money handed out for addiction and pay for in house rehab for addicts! Open your eyes folks this is more abotu MONEY than you think!

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