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How the Government Shutdown is Impacting the Opiate Crisis

Concerns have been raised over how President Donald Trump’s latest government shutdown is affecting the current opiate crisis, with conflicting statements issued by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

DEA Feeling the Effects of the Government Shutdown

The issue surrounds the prescription of the drug Suboxone. Suboxone is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone used in the treatment of opioid addiction. It acts as an opioid cravings suppressant, helping to reduce the risk of potential overdoses by people struggling with opioid dependency.

If a doctor wishes to prescribe Suboxone to a patient, then they need to receive approval both from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the DEA. While SAMHSA has not been affected by government shutdown, the DEA has.

However, the DEA has stated that the part of their administration that approves the way forward for doctors wishing to prescribe Suboxone has not been affected by the Suboxone shutdown. This part of the DEA is known as the Diversion Control Program.

Dr. Anthony Martinez of the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo explained on January 18 that he currently has to contend with a 100 patient cap when it came to prescribing Suboxone, and that he currently had 97 opioid addicted patients under his care. He expressed concerns that he would not be able to secure a further waiver from the DEA during the government shutdown, but the DEA announced later that day that his waiver had been improved.

Why Do Doctor’s Need a Waiver to Prescribe Suboxone?

The potential damage to the ability of doctors to prescribe Suboxone during the government shutdown has thrown up a challenge – why do doctors need a DEA waiver in the first place? Limited Suboxone therapy came into practice around the year 2000, and although the opioid epidemic has moved on at a pace, the waiver requirements have not.

The caps were initially set with the fear that doctors would incorrectly prescribe Suboxone. Despite its positive benefits, Suboxone itself can be open to abuse if prescribed incorrectly.

“(As with) any opiate-based pain medication, it could be abused,” explained Dr. Martinez. “They were initially afraid that people would prescribe it incorrectly and precipitate opiate withdrawal. But there’s other medications such as Vivitrol that are available that carry the same risk, and there’s no restriction on that.”

It is hoped that once the government shutdown is concluded the DEA will reconsider the current Suboxone waiver process, helping doctors to prescribe the craving-dampening drug to more people who need it.

Are You Currently Struggling with Opioid Dependency?

If you or someone you love is dealing with opioid dependency and is seeking help, feel free to reach out to the Advanced Rapid Detox team today. Our medical staff has decades of experience helping people wean themselves from the powerful grips of opiates. Learn more about our 3-day rapid opiate detox program today by calling (800) 603-1813.