New Regulations Allow Doctors to Treat More Patients Addicted to Opioids

New Regulations Allow Doctors to Treat More Patients Addicted to Opioids

The Obama Administration announced policy changes on July 6th, 2016 that will permit certain physicians to treat up to 275 patients suffering from opioid addiction with buprenorphine (Suboxone) [1,2]. This change is expected to be in place later this year. Under the current system, physicians that prescribe buprenorphine are only able to treat 100 patients in their practice [1].


Opioid addiction to drugs such as prescription painkillers, morphine, and heroin has become a global health issue that affects individuals regardless of health, social, or economic status [3]. Estimates have revealed that between 26.4 million and 36 million people around the world abuse opioids [3]. Esrsonm81timates reveal that approximately 2.1 million people in the U.S. suffer from substance use disorders attributed to prescription opioid painkillers and another 467,000 individuals are addicted to heroin [3]. The effects of opioid addiction are overwhelming, with the number of unintentional deaths quadrupling since 1999 [3].


New Mexico, in particular, has the highest rate of unintentional drug over-dose deaths in the United States, with rates being almost double the national rate [4]. Many of these deaths occur in rural areas within the State that may not have sufficient treatment facilities, including Rio Arriba, Taos, and San Miguel. One of the main issues in New Mexico is getting more physicians certified in addiction treatment [1].


Treatment with buprenorphine has gained popularity over the past few years compared to its counterpart, Methadone. There is less stigma associated with buprenorphine use as it can be prescribed by a certified physician and the prescription can be filled at a pharmacy in sublingual film, as opposed to Methadone, that is rosnm2administered in a Methadone clinic [5]. Other benefits of buprenorphine include a longer half-life and shorter titration period compared to Methadone. Buprenorphine helps to reduce cravings and prevent withdrawal symptoms [5].


This policy change is a vital component to help fight the current opioid addiction epidemic in the U.S. [2]. President Obama is requesting that Congress pass the Opioid and Heroin Abuse Crisis Investment Act to the tune of $1.16 billion. This act is set to expand treatment services, prescribing programs, drug monitoring programs and improve residential substance abuse treatment [1].




  1. Rule change to let doctors treat more opioid addicts. The Santa Fe New Mexican. 2016. Available at: Accessed August 10, 2016.
  2. Proposed patient limit raised to 275. ASAM applauds important action to help close addiction treatment gap. Asamorg. 2016. Available at: Accessed August 10, 2016.
  3. America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. Drugabusegov. 2014. Available at: Accessed August 10, 2016.
  4. Greenfield B, Owens M, Ley D. Opioid use in Albuquerque, New Mexico: a needs assessment of recent changes and treatment availability. Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2014;9(1):10. doi:10.1186/1940-0640-9-10.
  5. Platt A. Suboxone: A Harm Reduction Approach. J Alcohol Drug Depend. 2014;02(05). doi:10.4172/2329-6488.1000e118.


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