People with substance use disorders have suffered in the past, not only from the consequences of their addiction, but also from the stigma that the condition is a moral failing rather than a disease. The field of addiction medicine has shifted over time to one that treats people with these disorders as patients who suffer from a disease and who may benefit from a medication to treat it. One of the prescription medications is buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone. Oregon State University Professor of Pharmacy Daniel Hartung says overdoses in the U.S. have risen significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even before that, buprenorphine has been a life-saving drug that can effectively keep patients from abusing opioids. But Hartung’s new study of nearly a thousand pharmacies in about 500 counties across the U.S. with high rates of opioid overdoses found 20 percent of them would not dispense the drug. The Biden administration has just loosened buprenorphine restrictions to make it easier for doctors to prescribe the drug and we talk to Hartung about the significance of this move and what role pharmacists play in substance use disorder more broadly.
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