Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Despite Effectiveness, Buprenorphine Remains Underprescribed

Experts say buprenorphine is the ideal medication for opioid addiction—the partial agonist satisfies cravings without the same level of euphoria that drives drug-seeking behavior. Yet, the medication is underused and underprescribed, according to experts who spoke with Psychiatric News.

According to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are just 31,862 physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine—and 40 percent of these physicians do not prescribe buprenorphine at all.

A recent Psychiatric News article explored several factors that may deter physicians from prescribing the medication and create access challenges for patients. To address this access problem, APA supports incrementally expanding the number of patients that certified buprenorphine providers are permitted to treat at one time.

“I like to think of buprenorphine as a pharmacological platform that takes away withdrawal,” said John Renner, M.D., vice chair of the APA Council on Addiction Psychiatry and president of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (pictured above). “It does not resolve whatever problems led an individual to seek out drugs in the first place, but what does change is that the patient’s life is not dominated by drug-seeking. The pharmacological platform makes recovery possible.”

While buprenorphine is a highly effective treatment for opioid addiction, experts agreed that it should be prescribed as part of a total addiction treatment plan including participation in 12-step recovery and/or psychotherapy.

For more about buprenorphine prescribing and APA training to receive the waiver necessary to prescribe, see the Psychiatric News article “Why Aren’t More Physicians Prescribing Buprenorphine?”


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