Lowering the Barriers to Medication Treatment for People with Opioid Use Disorder

Effective medications to treat opioid disorders, such as methadone and buprenorphine, are effective treatments of opioid use disorder (OUD). Nonetheless, overdose deaths are currently at unprecedented levels in the United States. A recent study led by PISC Past Trainee Shoshana Aronowitz, PhD, CRNP, FNP-BC, outlines the low-threshold approach for medication-based OUD treatment as a path that could save thousands of lives.

The low-threshold approach is made up of four aspects. The first aspect, same-day treatment, has been clinically proven to streamline OUD treatment effectively without negative consequences. Additionally, harm reduction practices, such as the elimination of drug abstinence requirements, positively impact patient perceptions of treatment. Moreover, flexibility of regulations and requirements during a global pandemic is crucial to keep patients and providers. Lastly, increasing medication availability in settings that are accessible to marginalized populations can significantly improve treatment uptake. These settings can include syringe service programs, mobile treatment sites, and the Emergency Department. To reduce overdose deaths in the United States, the team recommends that policymakers “cast a critical eye on the rules and regulations that reduce access” to medication-based OUD treatment. Treatment programs that prioritize treatment outreach and initiation will be the most successful in reducing the opioid crisis in the United States.

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