The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently informed that it had modified a regulation to permit more healthcare workers, especially in rural areas, to prescribe medicines for treating opioid addiction. Considering the fact that rural America faces a shortage of doctors, the move is being seen as an important step in fighting the ongoing opioid crisis.
Earlier, only physicians were authorized to treat patients battling opioid abuse after registering with the DEA as operators of drug addiction treatment programs. The recent amendment to an existing regulation has included several categories of medical practitioners who may prescribe buprenorphine or other detox treatments for opioid use disorder. Now, physician assistants and nurse practitioners can seek waivers that will allow them to “prescribe and dispense” buprenorphine, a medication used to help individuals recover from opioid addiction.
Rural areas of the country are hard hit by the opioid crisis due to shortage of physicians. According to a 2017 study conducted by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), 53 percent of rural counties had no physician to prescribe medication to individuals addicted to opioids. This is indeed alarming, especially when around 30 million people reside in counties with extremely limited treatment options. In these rural counties, most providers authorized to prescribe buprenorphine report shortage of medicine supplies, leading to long wait times.
As a whopping 90 percent physicians authorized to prescribe buprenorphine or methadone reside in urban counties, the DEA’s latest move comes as a life-saver during one of the most terrible epidemics in the history of the nation. Now, about 5,000 mid-level practitioners can legally prescribe the anti-addiction drugs, and nearly 43,000 others could soon meet the criteria to prescribe in the near future, according to the DEA.
Overcoming menace of opioid addiction
According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in recent years, rural areas in the country have witnessed a spike in fatal drug overdoses compared to urban ones. In 2015, the rural rate of 17 overdose cases per 100,000 residents remained slightly higher than the urban rate of 16.2. Studies show that prescription opioid abuse may actually open the door to heroin use. With chemically identical structures and abilities to act on the same areas in the brain, both prescription opioids and heroin are known to create similar euphoric highs. Statistics show that the majority of heroin users in America today were first addicted to prescription drugs. The CDC reports that in 2016, the overdose death rate involving opioids showed a fivefold increase compared to that of 1999. From 2000 to 2016, more than 600,000 people succumbed to deadly drug overdoses.
Nationwide, managing pain is a major challenge. Therefore, a complete cultural transformation is vital to identify symptoms of opioid use disorder, assess the level of abuse, treat the underlying causes and prescribe opioids judiciously to not only eradicate pain, but also prevent any future risk of addiction. Educating the general public about the dangers of prescription opioids is key toward preventing addiction-related health problems in the future.
It is sad to note that millions of Americans from all walks of life are increasingly getting trapped in the unending cycle of addiction more swiftly than they might ever imagine. The only way to break free from the clutches of the deadly pills is to seek professional detox at one of the reputed addiction treatment centers to reverse the devastating effects of the drugs.
Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone who is unable to discontinue the use of addictive opioids despite the negative impact on his or her life. The treatment for addiction at Sovereign Health of San Clemente is designed to treat a person holistically. If you or your loved one is battling addiction to any prescription drug, call at our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the most effective treatment programs at our state-of-art rehabs.
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