If your child or loved one is considering or using pharmacotherapy, also known as medication-assisted treatment, to treat their opioid use disorder, you may be wondering how COVID-19 will impact their ability to get these critical medications.
Each Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) is subject to state regulations as to how medications can be dispensed, so methods will vary accordingly. Encourage your child to talk with their provider about these policies so there is no lapse in care or medication.
Assuming your child is attending an OTP, it may be helpful to know the following:
Your loved one should take all necessary precautions when going inside a program facility and interacting with others. In the event that the clinic closes, the provider should be able to tell you where you can locate an alternate site and staff to provide dosing.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs to reduce the spread of the virus. As of March 16, states may request the ability for OTPs to offer 28 days of take-home doses of medication for all stable patients. The state may also request up to 14 days of medication for those patients who are not as stable, but believed to be able to safely manage this level of medication. If patients are unable to manage their medications, they will have to attend the OTP on a daily basis. If your child receives a take-home dose, discuss how you can help them maintain their dosing schedule as the increased stress could potentially result in taking more medication than prescribed.
If your child is quarantined or infected by the virus, OTPs may offer drop-off services at their residence. Usually the drop-off is preceded by a phone call to alert you to the delivery, followed by one to ensure it has been picked up. If another person answers the door, identification may be requested. Again, it’s important to note that individual states will specify if and how this is offered.
If your child is getting oral buprenorphine or a monthly injection of buprenorphine (Sublocade) or naltrexone (Vivitrol), it’s important to discuss how to continue care with their provider. In some cases, the oral form can be provided as a stop-gap measure between shots, but it’s not ideal. Not only should your provider discuss medications, but also plans for counseling. Co-pay assistance is available for eligible patients with more information about financial support on the medication’s website.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has also eased restrictions that required health care providers to meet prospective new patients for evaluations in person. Now, they are allowing initial consultations to be done virtually. The provider must be registered with the DEA. This may be something to look into if your child is considering psychopharmacology.
The stress of COVID-19 and/or having medications on hand can increase the risk of an overdose. In addition to the safety measures to keep the virus from spreading, it’s equally important to keep medications secured and to have naloxone (also known as Narcan) on hand. Accessible at most pharmacies or from community recovery centers, naloxone is an easy-to-use medication that can reverse an overdose.
Because there will likely be limited access to behavioral health services, we encourage your loved one to attend online support groups, such as In the Rooms or SMART Recovery. This can help you, and them, cope with the stress of these changes while offering support from others who are in the same place.
For parents and caregivers, we have a new, online support community. These meetings are facilitated by our peer parent coaches to provide support and help you connect with others in similar circumstances. You can gain insights and ideas as to how to help your child and yourself during this challenging time.
If you have more questions, please reach out to our helpline by texting us at 55753. Specialists will have updated information on how to help you and your loved ones as your needs change over time. We will remain open throughout the COVID-19 crisis to provide you support.