New DEA Ruling Aimed at Increasing Addiction Treatment

Practitioners now able to prescribe, dispense buprenorphine to patients

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced a measure that will make it easier for residents in rural or underserved areas to receive treatment for drug addiction.

Among other professionals, nurse practitioners and physician assistants can now become Drug Abuse Treatment Act (DATA)-waived practitioners, granting them the authority to prescribe and dispense buprenorphine from their practices. Buprenorphine is an opioid maintenance drug, designed to lessen the effects of opioid withdrawal and other symptoms while treating an individual.

Prior to the enactment of the DATA, only physicians could treat patients with opioid addictions, and in order to do so they had to register with DEA as both physicians and operators of Narcotic Treatment Programs.

Since most DATA-waived physicians were located in or around urban centers, this made access extremely challenging for recovering addicts in rural or underserved areas.

According to a 2017 report published by the National Rural Health Association, 90 percent of DATA-waived physicians practice in urban counties, leaving 53 percent of rural counties without any prescribing physicians. At the time of the report, 30 million people resided in counties where treatment is unavailable.

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