Even as opioid mortality approaches record levels, tens of thousands of people seeking online therapy for opiate abuse may soon lose accessibility to lifesaving programs that grew quickly during the epidemic.
When laws were lifted in 2020, individuals were able to see medical professionals from the comfort of their own homes
This let them avoid the in-person appointments that were previously necessary to obtain a script for buprenorphine, an opioid addiction treatment.
Patients are pursuing therapy via their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, even when physicians’ offices reopen; it is faster, simpler, and more private than in-person therapy for a highly stigmatized condition.
According to recent research, giving buprenorphine through telemedicine is just as successful, if not more so, in keeping people on the prescription.
However, coupled with the COVID-19 public health crisis, federal laws allowing practitioners to dispense buprenorphine after an audiovisual visit — even to patients beyond their state — are about to expire.
This may happen as soon as October. The Drug Enforcement Administration has previously missed deadlines to ease virtual access, despite its efforts to combat buprenorphine abuse.
I grew up a few miles from center city. It has become a very dangerous place. #philadelphia transportation areas have become camping grounds for drug addicts.
The subway system is impossible. Not a place to go to learn the history of the USA. https://t.co/wYdl7zLtuQ
— Tom Dooley (@tomofsnj) June 18, 2022
Officials worry they are on the verge of losing one of their most important instruments in the fight against opiate abuse.
This could end up hindering attempts to confront a crisis that is impacting an increasing amount of young people and killing hundreds of lives.
“Removing the flexibility with telehealth now would exacerbate the situation,” Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute of Mental Health, told POLITICO. “Patients will just be ignored.”
The country’s opiate issue worsened as a result of the pandemic’s economic pressures and seclusion. As per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose now kills more Americans than firearms or suicide.
Nearly 108,000 individuals died from drug overdoses in 2021, with opioids accounting for roughly three-quarters of the deaths.
Both the Trump and Biden governments worked to expand buprenorphine availability. However, despite the federal drive, it might be difficult for people to access.
As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Department Of health, just over 11% of folks 12 and older with just an opioid-use ailment did receive medication-assisted care in the previous year.
Experts ascribe this partially to shame and somewhat to obstacles, such as a scarcity of physicians who can prescribe the highly regulated narcotic.
— Citizenj17 (@citizenj17) June 14, 2022
According to federal officials, the expansion of telemedicine treatments for opioid-use disorders during the epidemic presents an unexpected opportunity.
“Is it a total cure-all? No,” said Yngvild Olsen, head of SAMHSA’s Center for Addiction Treatment. She claims, however, that it can be beneficial.
“Telehealth for opioid addiction has proven to be incredibly helpful in linking individuals to care, not only in getting them into treatment, but also in keeping them there.”