a doctor discusses why doctors are increasing the use of buprenorphine

Doctors Increasing Use of Buprenorphine in Addiction Treatment

The use of buprenorphine to treat opioid dependence has increased dramatically in the last ten years, particularly among general physicians. This trend is indicative of a clear shift in opioid maintenance therapy in the United States. Buprenorphine is a modern medication that can help people affected by opioid addiction break a pattern of uncontrolled drug or medication consumption. It also allows them to stay active in their treatment programs. All licensed doctors can prescribe buprenorphine to their patients. However, doctors who don’t specialize in addiction treatment once largely avoided prescribing the medication. In a study published in late 2014 in The American Journal on Addictions, a team of American researchers looked at the long-term trend of buprenorphine prescribing in outpatient addiction treatment among all U.S. doctors, including psychiatrists and general physicians.

At Recovery Ranch TN, we offer a comprehensive program that includes buprenorphine as part of our curriculum for people struggling with opioid addiction. Contact us today to get started on your road to recovery at our opioid addiction treatment program.

Treating Opioid Addiction

All opioid treatment programs help their clients and patients halt the unrestrained intake of opioid drugs like heroin or opioid medications such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. In many cases, the first step toward this goal is detoxification, a period in which opioid intake stops and the individual’s body purges all opioids from their system.

In detox-based programs, this period is followed by the establishment of opioid abstinence and non-opioid medication and counseling or therapies. These treatments reinforce abstinence and provide the tools necessary to avoid a return to opioid use. A second approach, widely known as opioid replacement therapy or opioid maintenance therapy, does not aim to eliminate opioids from the systems of program participants. Instead, this approach relies on the controlled use of opioid medications as a substitute for the uncontrolled intake of opioid drugs or medications.

In some cases, opioid replacement is a short-term tool to help people in recovery avoid grappling with the most severe consequences of opioid withdrawal. In other instances, opioid replacement continues for weeks, months, or years and provides clients and patients with an ongoing substitute for uncontrolled opioid use. As a rule, opioid replacement therapy also has a substantial counseling or psychotherapeutic component.

What Is Buprenorphine?

At one time, all opioid maintenance programs featured an opioid medication called methadone. However, doctors can now use buprenorphine instead of methadone. Buprenorphine has several potential advantages over methadone. First, a dose of buprenorphine is substantially weaker than a dose of methadone and therefore comes with lower risks for abusive use during opioid treatment.

In addition, unlike methadone, buprenorphine also has a relatively low ceiling of maximum potency when taken improperly in multiple doses. Pharmaceutical manufacturers can further reduce the abuse risks for buprenorphine by combining the medication with naloxone. This medication puts a firm time limit on the biological availability of buprenorphine’s opioid content.

Finally, methadone prescription is limited to certain facilities with special federal licensing. However, even a general physician not dedicated to addiction treatment can prescribe buprenorphine.

Are Doctors Prescribing More Buprenorphine?

In the study published in The American Journal on Addictions, researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a private medical practice in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania worked together. They gathered data from an ongoing project called the IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index to track the frequency of buprenorphine prescribing among U.S. doctors between 2003 and 2013. The National Disease and Therapeutic Index is designed to track outpatient visits at doctors’ offices across America. It includes physicians practicing in a broad range of general and specialized areas of medicine.

The researchers specifically looked at the frequency of buprenorphine use as an outpatient treatment for opioid dependence/addiction. Results from the National Disease and Therapeutic Index indicate that just 160,000 instances of buprenorphine use in a doctor’s office occurred across the U.S. in 2003. By 2013, this number had increased to 2,100,000 instances.

The researchers concluded that doctors in essentially all areas of practice increased their rate of buprenorphine prescribing during the timeframe in question. By far, the rate of use increased the most among general physicians, who by definition do not dedicate themselves solely to addiction-related issues. Conversely, even though psychiatrists increased their rate of buprenorphine prescribing, their overall proportion of the total amount of medication prescribed to patients dropped dramatically. In fact, general physicians now prescribe buprenorphine much more often than psychiatrists.

The study’s authors note the broad increase in the prescription of buprenorphine as a treatment for opioid dependence/addiction between 2003 and 2013. They also note the significant increase in medication use by general physicians who are not addiction specialists.

Find Medication-Assisted Treatment at Recovery Ranch TN

Recovery Ranch TN is a welcoming, supportive place for you to begin facing addiction and addiction’s underlying issues. We offer a number of programs designed to help you heal, including an intensive outpatient program and a residential program. In addition, we are proud to offer medication-assisted treatment options, including buprenorphine, to our clients. We also offer therapeutic options including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Nutrition therapy

If you’re ready to put opioid addiction behind you, we can help. Contact Recovery Ranch TN today to get started on your journey to wellness.

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