Opioid Resource Center

Opioid Resource Center

Source: Healio Interview

Disclosures: Volkow reports no relevant financial disclosures.
December 27, 2021
3 min read

As opioid epidemic hits new milestone, work is underway to increase buprenorphine access

Source: Healio Interview

Disclosures: Volkow reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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Last month, the CDC released data that indicated more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths occurred from May 2020 to April 2021 — the highest number in a 12-month period. Of that total, 64% involved synthetic opioids.

Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said efforts to reverse the number of opioid- and overdose-related deaths continue in earnest.

There are a number of efforts that can be taken or that are already underway to increase access to buprenorphine, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse told Healio.
Photo source: Adobe stock

A common element in many strategies to curb the opioid epidemic is increasing buprenorphine access to physicians and patients.

Volkow told Healio that there are many ways to combat the opioid epidemic, including providing future clinicians with training to recognize the disorder and offering them incentives to seek opioid use disorder-related training; increasing the number of opioid use disorder screenings; ensuring that clinicians are reimbursed adequately for prescribing buprenorphine; and seeking mentorship opportunities that enhance their understanding of the drug.

She also encouraged clinicians to build trust among their patients with addiction, so they are more likely to “disclose substance use ... and to accept treatment in a primary care setting.”

According to Volkow, “it is important that we work to increase clinicians’ awareness of the safety and effectiveness of medications for opioid use disorder and reduce stigma around substance use disorder.” She added studies have shown buprenorphine is one of several drugs proven to be safe and effective in treating opioid use disorder.

Nora Volkow

“If concerns about the potential for misuse of buprenorphine are keeping clinicians from prescribing medications for opioid use disorder, I would point out that a NIDA-funded study found that in 2019, nearly three-fourths of U.S. adults reporting buprenorphine use did not misuse the medication in the past 12 months,” she said. “Buprenorphine misuse among people with opioid use disorder trended downward between 2015 and 2019, even though more people received buprenorphine treatment during this time.”

There were numerous developments in 2021 regarding buprenorphine and other medications for treating opioid use disorder. Below, Healio recaps 10 stories published on the topic.

Patients who switch to buprenorphine see improvements in pain, quality of life

Patients who switched to buprenorphine after using opioids to treat their chronic pain reported significant improvements in pain and quality of life, according to a retrospective analysis that was conducted at a pain management clinic. Read more.

Veterans Affairs initiative increases prescribing of medications for opioid use disorder

A multifaceted implementation initiative in nonaddiction clinics in the U.S. Veterans Affairs’ health care system appeared to increase the prescribing of medications for opioid use disorder, according to study results published in JAMA Network Open. Read more.

Bundled intervention improves care for patients with infections, opioid use disorder

Patients with opioid use disorder who were hospitalized for serious infections experienced higher odds of clinical cure and retention in addiction care when they were treated with a bundled intervention, according to a study. Read more.

Patients report subcutaneous buprenorphine preferable to sublingual formulation

Patients with opioid dependence who received subcutaneous buprenorphine reported higher satisfaction and lower treatment burden vs. those who took sublingual buprenorphine, according to results of a randomized clinical trial. Read more.

Opioid agonist treatment 'important intervention' for those with opioid dependence

Opioid agonist treatment reduced mortality rates among people with opioid dependence, according to results of a systematic review and meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Read more.

Monetary-based contingency management improves outcomes in opioid use disorder

Results of a systematic review and meta-analysis supported the use of contingency management for addressing significant clinical problems among patients who received medication for opioid use disorder. Read more.

Q&A: Physicians improve buprenorphine access for the homeless amid COVID-19

In an interview with Healio, a physician described how some rules regarding buprenorphine that the Drug Enforcement Administration relaxed amid the pandemic turned into an opportunity to improve access to the medication for the homeless population in Chicago. Read more.

HHS removes barriers to buprenorphine for opioid use disorder

HHS has released new practice guidelines to expand access to buprenorphine for opioid use disorder. Read more.

Office-based treatment may enhance methadone access for those with opioid use disorder

Using methadone to treat opioid use disorder in office-based settings may enhance access to this treatment without adversely affecting patient outcomes, according to results of a scoping review published in American Journal of Psychiatry. Read more.

Telehealth may be ‘game-changer’ for addiction treatment

Telehealth may bolster access, initiation and retention related to addiction treatment, but more research is needed, according to a study published in Psychiatric Services. Read more.


Following release of CDC overdose data, White House, Health and Human Services, and Justice officials discuss the Biden-Harris administration’s work to address the overdose epidemic. https://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/briefing-room/2021/11/17/following-release-of-cdc-overdose-data-white-house-health-and-human-services-and-justice-officials-discuss-the-biden-harris-administrations-work-to-address-the-overdose-epidemic/. Published Nov. 17, 2021. Accessed Dec. 21, 2021.

O'Donnell J, et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7050e3external icon.