Curbing opioid-use disorder by treating it in the doctor’s office

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If primary care physicians (PCPs) offered medication treatment for opioid use disorder more frequently, overdose deaths could be reduced, according to a Perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) co-authored by Michael Barnett of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management, and co-author Sarah Wakeman of Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital said that office-based addiction treatment with buprenorphine — which can improve remission rates and reduce both medical complications and the likelihood of overdose death — could be a realistic solution for reaching the millions of Americans with opioid use disorder.

The article debunked several myths about buprenorphine, including the notion that it’s simply a replacement for opioids and that patients become addicted to it, and the idea that abstinence-based treatment is more effective than medication.

“Mobilizing the PCP workforce to offer office-based buprenorphine treatment is a plausible, practical, and scalable intervention that could be implemented immediately,” the authors wrote.