More Flexibility for Take-Home Drugs to Treat Opioid Addicts

Caroline Cassels

December 06, 2012

A new federal rule will allow patients being treated through for opioid addiction to receive take-home supplies of buprenorphine in a more flexible manner.

Under the rule change, which was issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and takes effect January 7, 2013, eligible patients being treated through an opioid treatment program (OTP) will be able to receive the drug without having to adhere to previous length of time in treatment requirements.

Currently, OTPs requires a patient to be in treatment for a minimum of 1 year before he or she can receive a 2-week supply of take-home medication.

According to SAMHSA, "this final rule will provide flexibility to programs in matching patient needs."

The rule change will not affect requirements for dispensing methadone. According to a SAMHSA release, the change in restrictions for dispensing buprenorphine is based on several factors. These include differences in abuse potential between methadone and buprenorphine as well as lower abuse and mortality rates, which are lower in each instance for buprenorphine.

SAMSHA anticipates that the added flexibility under the rule change will result in an overall reduction of societal costs and will lead to lower overall treatment costs for OTPs.

According to SAMSA, "the added flexibility will also benefit patients, who should be able to report to OTPs less frequently, while still benefitting from the counseling, medical, recovery and other services OTPs provide."

Although the agency acknowledges that there may be additional diversion and abuse risks associated with the possible expansion of treatment, it "believes that the benefits of increased flexibility and increased access to care in OTP setting outweighs these possible risks."

There are approximately 1270 facilities in the United States that are specially authorized under federal law to use narcotic medications to treat addiction.

For more information on the rule visit: