I was one of the lucky ones to receive medication to treat my opioid addiction

Legal and regulatory restrictions, stigma, and other barriers make it difficult for many patients to access FDA-approved medications to treat opioid use disorder (MOUD).

By Stephen Kavalkovich

One of the major turning points was when I got on medication-assisted treatment through a physician who placed me on Suboxone for a relatively short amount of time, only a couple of months. It helped to address the craving and the chemical dependency. And it helped me to finally start addressing those underlying emotional issues and trauma that I had never dealt with.

Stephen’s story is taken from an interview transcript and has been edited for clarity.

The Problem

Medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder (MOUD) are the most effective, potentially lifesaving, treatment for opioid addiction. They reduce drug use and overdose, and they help keep people in treatment, resulting in better outcomes.

Despite their proven effectiveness, multiple barriers make them difficult to access. The federal government imposes strict requirements on the way methadone and buprenorphine are prescribed and dispensed. Health care providers who prescribe buprenorphine must have a “waiver” – essentially special permission from the federal government – and can only prescribe to a limited number of patients at a time.

No other medication requires health care providers to obtain special permission or has restrictions on the number of patients providers can treat. This discrepancy is driven by stigma, rather than science, and discriminates against patients with substance use disorder.

The Solution

Remove the waiver requirement for health care providers to prescribe buprenorphine and increase access to effective addiction care. Eliminating the waiver requirement must be accompanied by efforts to increase substance use disorder training for health care providers, provide adequate payment reimbursement and remove other insurance barriers.

Take Action

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Increase access to opioid addiction treatment

Tell your members of Congress to pass legislation that would eliminate the buprenorphine waiver requirement and expand access to life-saving treatment.