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How Primary Care Physicians Became the New Frontline in Fighting Opioid Addiction

How Primary Care Physicians Became the New Frontline in Fighting Opioid Addiction

The overdose crisis from prescription drugs has reached epidemic proportions. Some of the challenges for people who need pain relief come from lack of access to proper care. The growth of buprenorphine addiction has taken some people by surprise and some are turning to heroin and fentanyl when they are not able to access opioids. The primary care physician (PCP) workforce offers a challenge to those struggling with addiction in a new way than has been seen in the past. Find out what is being proposed and how it might work to help the millions of people wrestling with addiction to painkillers.

Help from PCPs

More PCPs are become part of the healthcare workforce, including a broad net of nurse practitioners and physician assistants who are treating U.S. adults. Training enough addiction medicine or psychiatric specialists could take years. There are already low numbers of these specialists, with many methadone treatment programs operating at nearly 80% capacity or greater, depending on the many factors. The reason PCPs may be helpful on the frontline of addiction to opioids includes:

  • Positioning with clients to do the greatest amount of good
  • Already caring for most ambulatory visits for buprenorphine treatment
  • Have been on the frontline of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the past and may be most likely to have capacity to be trained for supporting people with addiction to opioids

Promoting Treatment

There are many myths which may keep PCPs from jumping into line and helping stem the flow of people with addiction to opiates. Buprenorphine is often seen as more dangerous than other interventions physicians master during training. Regularly, more complicated and risky treatments are often prescribed by PCPs including full-agonist opioids for pain. Currently, physicians need only complete 8 hours of training to apply for a DEA waiver to begin prescribing buprenorphine. Treatment becomes intimidating for a limited number of those seeking help. Scaling back federal regulations could help with training on outcomes and risk. More people equipped to offer this treatment can boost the number of those who can receive necessary help. Other myths that pervade include:

  • Buprenorphine is only a ‘replacement’ and people become addicted to that. Addiction is more than that. Understanding how addiction works can support PCPs in offering better treatment.
  • Abstinence-based treatment is seen as more effective than medication for addiction treatment. No study has show that is the case. Some interventions may do more harm than good. Advocacy and education is necessary to help dispel damaging, misleading myths that depict addiction as other than the reality

Although the increased prescription of opioids is part of the problem, prescription rates continue to fall and overdose rates are increasing. If prescribing patterns were the only reason, then the crisis would look different now. Mobilizing the PCP workforce to provide office-based treatment may help and yet it is still a complex issue need help on many fronts.

The fact is, people with addiction need a safe space in which to detox and come off the drugs. A medically supervised detox center can be just the place for a person who is addicted to drugs and needs to be supervised so they can begin the healing journey of recovery. Finding the right place can be challenging, but Serenity provides a place where trained, professional staff oversee the detox and rehab programs to better support a long-term recovery.

If you are seeking help with addiction to drugs, Serenity provides a safe space to detox in a medically supervised environment. You can release toxins from your system and begin to get your body back in balance so you can deal with the underlying causes of addiction. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401