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Advanced Practice Provider Executives, Inc. - APPex

Nurse Practitioners Can Increase Treatment Accessibility For Opioid Addiction [U.S.]

Posted over 3 years ago by Nicholas M Perrino

"[Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)] can prescribe many medications and do treat people with substance use disorders — but because of the restrictions on Suboxone, APRNs' opioid-dependent patients do not have access to the treatment that evidence shows might be their best option. In its report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) made the case for allowing APRNs to practice at the full extent of their training and licensure. With regard to prescribing Suboxone, they currently are not.

To increase the number of people who can receive this care, APRNs should be allowed, with certification, to prescribe Suboxone. The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act introduced in the House by Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY) and in the Senate by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) would do just that. The TREAT Act (H.R. 2536/S. 1455, 114th Congress) seeks to expand accessibility of medication-assisted therapy (opioid treatment with Suboxone) by changing 'qualifying physician' to 'qualifying practitioner' (nurse practitioner or physician assistant) and by changing the total number of Suboxone-receiving patients from '30' to '100.'

It's too bad, because the TREAT Act would increase accessibility to substance misuse treatment by allowing nurse practitioners to receive the waiver and certification necessary to prescribe Suboxone, thus making treatment more available. By providing access to medication-assisted treatments in combination with behavioral therapy, nurses can help save lives (decrease overdose deaths and decrease HIV and Hepatitis transmission).

More available providers means less illness and fewer negative consequences borne by our medical and legal systems — not to mention, it's more cost-effective.

To be sure, there has long been a dispute promulgated by physicians and physicians' groups (e.g. the American Medical Association), which argue against APRN practice and don't support expanding such authority to nurses; however this has been disputed in the recent IOM report mentioned previously and through rigorous study. We're ready to improve the quality of life for individuals and families where opioid addiction has had devastating effects."