July 15, 2024
Medical Group Backs Decriminalization of Opioid for Addiction Treatment

Medical Group Backs Decriminalization of Opioid for Addiction Treatment

(Brett Rowland, The Center Square) – A leading medical group has called for decriminalizing personal use of a synthetic opioid used for treatment of opioid addiction without a prescription.

The American Medical Association took a fresh stance on buprenorphine, a prescription synthetic opioid used to treat pain and opioid use disorders, during its annual meeting.

The American Medical Association, a professional association and lobbying group for physicians and medical students, adopted the policy in support of harm reduction. The group adopted policy supporting efforts to decriminalize the possession of non-prescribed buprenorphine for personal use by people who lack access to a physician for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

The group noted a 2023 study found buprenorphine treatment after overdose was associated with a 62% reduction in the risk of opioid-involved overdose death. Access to buprenorphine can be challenging because of stigma, regulatory and legal barriers and issues with health insurance coverage, according to the AMA.

“Opioid use disorder is a treatable medical disease and buprenorphine is proven to be an effective treatment,” said Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, AMA president-elect and chair of the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force.

“Given the innumerable barriers to care for opioid use disorder, combined with the clear benefits of increasing access to buprenorphine, decriminalizing non-prescribed buprenorphine for personal use is necessary to prevent more overdoses and deaths.”

Synthetic opioids were involved in 74,225 overdose deaths in 2022 – 68% of the total 111,036 overdose deaths that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2019, Boston University addiction experts Payel Roy and Michael Stein wrote an opinion piece published in JAMA, a peer-reviewed medical journal from the AMA, that buprenorphine should be made more accessible without a prescription or doctor visit to patients as a “behind-the-counter” drug monitored and administered by pharmacists similar to emergency contraception.


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