Ever since the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl began appearing in the illicit drug supply in 2014, the number of U.S. overdose deaths has exceeded all other accidental deaths, including car crashes and gun violence. In response, the federal government and some states are redoubling efforts to curb the epidemic of overdoses by making medication-assisted treatment more accessible to the 9.5 million people with an opioid use disorder, reports Stateline. Last week, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration proposed to make permanent pandemic-era rule changes that have allowed some patients to take home up to a 28-day supply of the addiction medication methadone, instead of getting a daily dose at a crowded clinic.
State drug and alcohol agencies and clinic operators will decide whether to adopt the new baseline rules or retain stricter regulations. Those that opt for a more flexible approach will have to overcome the stigma, fear and misinformation about methadone that, for decades, has dogged patients who rely on the addiction medication and clinics that dispense it. Unlike buprenorphine and naltrexone, the other two drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for addiction treatment, methadone has been required under federal law to be administered in person at clinics where long lines and full parking lots have caused resentment among neighbors and passersby. The new rules would allow qualified patients to take it at home for up to 28 days. Advocates for people with addiction and the methadone industry have sought the permanent rule changes proposed last week, which would allow more of the nation’s 476,000 methadone patients to take their daily dose in the privacy of their own homes.