"Prescribing for Opioid Addiction is My Responsibility", a recent post in the American Academy of Family Physicians' Leader Voices Blog, sounds a clarion call for more prescribers to start providing buprenorphine to patients who need it.
"Opioid use -- both prescription and the illegal variety -- has skyrocketed, but the number of physicians available to help those affected has not. According to HHS, less than half of the 2.2 million Americans who need treatment for opioid addiction are getting it. The Pew Charitable Trusts has noted, for example, that almost 500 patients in Vermont are on waiting lists to receive medication for opioid dependence. For the majority, the wait will last nearly a year. The issue of supply and demand for approved prescribers isn't limited to that state, and the long wait for help proves too long for many.
My patients need help, so it has to be me. I have to take responsibility.
In the past month, three patients came to me wanting more opioid medications or refills that I did not feel were appropriate. All three essentially said that if I didn't prescribe the medications, they could get drugs -- more easily and cheaply -- on the street. Those drugs, of course, are unregulated and dangerous, and some are illegal. I asked myself why I didn't have anything else to offer them."