Author: Ruiqi Tang
Edited by: William Dean, Sophie Hill, and Noah Steinfeld
Less than 35% of the 2.3 million people with opioid misuse in the United States receive treatment. Opioids are a class of drugs that mask pain by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain, producing pleasurable sensations. These “euphoric” feelings can lead to addiction when patients begin taking opioids for non-medical use. Despite the growing crises of opioid addiction, there is a dire shortage of physicians approved to prescribe a medication approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid addiction: buprenorphine. Buprenorphine works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, but unlike opioids, its sedating effects are relatively lower and it is frequently co-formulated with another drug (naloxone) to prevent overdose. Despite its safety advantages in suppressing withdrawal symptoms, physicians must undergo additional training to obtain a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-issued waiver in order to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid addiction–a restriction that does not exist for opioid medications like oxycodone that have a greater risk of adverse outcomes.