- Addiction & recovery
Doctors that Prescribe Suboxone
David Schwartz, MD
November 5, 2021
Suboxone is one of three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), a chronic brain disease characterized by the overpowering urge to continue using opioids despite personal, occupational, and social consequences. Suboxone combines buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, with naloxone, an opioid antagonist, developed specifically to combat the alarming increase in opioid-related emergency room visits and fatal overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids, especially synthetic opioids, were involved in 49,860 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2019 alone.
Anyone who wishes to undergo Suboxone maintenance treatment (SMT) for opioid use disorder may have many questions regarding the treatment, such as who is authorized to prescribe the medication and where to find doctors that prescribe them. Thus, this article aims to provide an insight into Suboxone doctors, the requirements expected of such professionals, and how to find Suboxone doctors near you.
Who Can Prescribe Suboxone?
Suboxone is classified as a Schedule III controlled medication, implying a relatively low potential for misuse and dependence. Suboxone medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) can only be prescribed by qualified practitioners who have received special training and certification from the U.S. federal government.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), these qualified practitioners include physicians, Nurse Practitioners (NP), Physician Assistants (PA), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), and Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM).
Suboxone doctors can only treat 30 people at one time or 100 to 275 people in one year. Suboxone doctors can work in outpatient settings, including hospitals, medical clinics, or private practices.
Requirements Needed to Become a Suboxone Doctor
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new guidelines in April 2021 allowing eligible practitioners to forgo the federal training requirement and certification to counseling and other ancillary services (psychosocial services) to obtain a waiver, as long as they treat up to 30 people at any one time. However, qualified practitioners who wish to treat more than 30 people still have to undergo the required training, obtain a DATA 2000 waiver, and meet certain federal conditions.
One of the following two conditions have to be met by qualified practitioners to treat 100 people in the first year:
- Hold a board certification in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry by the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) or the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).
- Offer MOUD services in a qualified practice setting. A qualified practice setting is a setting that:
- Offers professional coverage for medical emergencies during hours that the practice is generally closed for service.
- Provides people access to case management services, including referral and follow-up services to programs that offer financial support to behavioral, medical, social, housing, employment, educational, or other related services.
- Utilizes health information technology systems such as electronic health records.
- Registered for State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) under Federal and State law.
- Accepts third-party payment for health services, including written billing, credit, and collection policies and procedures or federal health benefits.
How Do Suboxone Doctors Provide Treatment?
The initial process of providing Suboxone treatment is quite similar to a methadone clinic. The clinic staff will perform an initial assessment to determine a person’s medical condition and eligibility for treatment and a urinalysis to ensure that the person is not taking any substance that may negatively interact with Suboxone. Once the assessment and urinalysis are cleared, the doctor will formulate an individualized treatment plan that best meets their condition and individual treatment needs.
Treatment providers generally prescribe Suboxone at the onset of acute opioid withdrawal symptoms to prevent the risk of sudden opioid withdrawal syndrome. The right dose of Suboxone for each individual is determined during the induction phase. And people who wish to stop Suboxone treatment under the guidance of their healthcare professional are gradually tapered off the substance at the end of the maintenance phase, which can last anywhere between a few months to a few years.
It’s important to note Suboxone is only a single component of a comprehensive treatment program. Most healthcare professionals provide or recommend undergoing other aspects of treatment, including counseling, behavioral therapies, and aftercare support to ensure a more sustained recovery.
Is Suboxone Treatment Right For You?
Suboxone may be the right treatment option for individuals grappling with a physical dependence on opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers. It’s also the ideal treatment route for individuals committed and determined to overcome their opioid dependence without enrolling in a residential treatment program.
Suboxone may also be right for individuals who are free of medical conditions such as:
- Asthma or other serious breathing problems
- Serious liver problems
- Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
Suboxone treatment helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with quitting opioids to prolong recovery. Suboxone does not generate as intense an effect as other full opioids and is generally well-tolerated even at high doses, making it a popular treatment for opioid use disorder.
How to Find a Suboxone Doctor Near You?
It may require some time, effort, and research to find the right Suboxone doctor near you. You can start by doing a simple Google search and looking for local results. It may also be a great idea to check in with your primary care provider to see if they can prescribe Suboxone or recommend someone who can.
The National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment‘s (NAABT) TreatmentMatch locator is another smart yet underutilized way to get in touch with verified treatment providers to get the treatment and support you need. The locator inquires about your medical history and treatment requirements to connect you with relevant providers in your area who are accepting new clients. Your request remains completely anonymous, and you can review provider information to determine if they seem appropriate to you.
SAMHSA’s buprenorphine treatment practitioner locator is also another valuable source to finding reliable Suboxone doctors in your vicinity. You can also search for SAMHSA-certified Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) that utilize Suboxone treatment to help you locate a qualified treatment provider.
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