Featured image for article

Carolina Journal reports: Regulations, provider shortages keep addicts from getting treatment, experts say

Julie Havlak reports for Carolina Journal that rules and laws limit the number of patients doctors can treat and restrict treatment clinics, driving some addicts to seek illicit fixes.

When addicts show up at emergency rooms, there’s a good chance they won’t find help.

“I see individuals walk into the emergency department, saying, ‘I’m fed up, I’m done, I want to stop doing heroin. Can you help me?’” Dr. Stanley Koontz of New Bern said. “And usually … I’ll send the majority of them home.”

Treatment programs are saturated, and patients are often left to battle addiction on their own. Doctors place part of the blame squarely at Uncle Sam’s feet, many health professionals say.

On the front lines of the fight against addiction are buprenorphine and methadone, drugs that block cravings and withdrawal symptoms. But getting more addicts medication-assisted treatment programs is an uphill slog, slowed by skepticism within the industry, shortages of providers, and lawmakers’ regulations, experts say.

Current law restricts the number of patients doctors can treat with buprenorphine. If they apply for a waiver and complete eight hours of training, physicians can treat up to 30 patients in the first year, 100 the next, and can eventually apply to treat up to 275.

“The government is getting in the way of themselves if they want to stem the tide of opioid addiction. They have made it impossible, especially for the poor,” Gorrigan said. “What has occured from this is an artificial shortage of treatment, and what occurs from that is that most providers of buprenorphine charge cash … which most people can’t afford.”

The inspections, the regulations, and the fears of drug diversion have scared primary doctors away from prescribing medication based treatments, Singer said.

Want to know more? Read the full piece here.

Reader Comments