The opioid epidemic in the United States has reached unprecedented levels amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were an estimated 90,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending September 2020, including a 55% increase in opioid-related deaths.
The Biden administration recently released new federal guidelines allowing for a significant increase in the prescription of buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The changes will lower regulatory hurdles that critics believe limit the use of the potentially life-saving medication when drug overdose deaths are at an all-time high.
What Is Buprenorphine?
Buprenorphine is a medication for people battling opioid addiction. Ever since the drug was approved for the clinical treatment of OUD in 2002, it has helped thousands of people quit using opioids.
Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that works by activating opioid receptors in the brain. This activation plateaus in a “ceiling effect” that causes the euphoria of the drug to level off no matter how much a person takes. Full opioid agonists like methadone do not have this plateau. Buprenorphine’s ceiling effect makes individuals less likely to abuse it or become physically dependent on it.
Benefits of Buprenorphine
The primary benefit of buprenorphine is that overdose is unlikely, thanks to the ceiling effect of the medication. When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine can:
- Suppress opioid withdrawal symptoms.
- Block opioid side effects.
- Reduce opioid cravings.
Expanding Buprenorphine Treatment
Because buprenorphine is proven to be effective at treating OUD and has a low risk of overdose, advocates within the medical community have pushed to make it a mainstream addiction treatment option. This push, coupled with the devastating rise of fatal drug overdoses, led to the new federal guidelines that expanded buprenorphine treatment. Under these new regulations, a wide range of medical practitioners can now offer buprenorphine treatment, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners and certified midwives.
One of the main goals of allowing more medical professionals to administer buprenorphine is to reach rural populations. Most rural areas of the country have a lack of physicians. By expanding buprenorphine guidelines to include more medical practitioners, opioid treatment will become more accessible in these hard-hit areas.
The new regulations also streamline some of the buprenorphine training processes, as medical practitioners who treat less than 30 patients will not be required to undergo additional training.
Contact MedMark Treatment Centers to Get Started
At MedMark, we use buprenorphine as an option for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which includes medication and counseling to increase your chance of success. Each one of our patients receives an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan to address all aspects of wellness and promote recovery. You’ll benefit from having an experienced care team of clinicians and physicians who tailor their services to your specific needs.
You can find our licensed and certified buprenorphine clinics in numerous locations across the country. For more information about our opioid addiction treatment options, give us a call at 866-840-6658 or complete our online contact form.