• Addiction & recovery

Transitioning from Methadone to Buprenorphine During COVID-19: How Eleanor Health Can Help

Nzinga Harrison

April 5, 2020


As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads and mandatory social distancing seems likely to extend for several weeks, addiction treatment as we know it has changed in several ways. From new patient intake to peer support groups, treatment programs have had to alter how different components are provided in order to protect the health of patients and staff alike. These changes have significantly impacted people who use methadone for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as part of their overall treatment plan.

How MAT Works

Medical research studies show that MAT reduces the risk of death from overdose by as much as 60% in a year. When used properly, MAT can help to reduce substance cravings and increases the likelihood of a successful, long-term recovery. Under normal circumstances, this class of medications falls under strict federal regulations and involves regularly scheduled clinic visits. One of the most common MAT medications prescribed, methadone, requires daily visits to a licensed clinic.

How COVID-19 Is Impacting Methadone Use

Providing access to essential medications, like methadone, that can prevent relapse and overdose is of the utmost importance, now more than ever. However, given the need to practice social distancing, adhering to these regularly scheduled clinic visits raises safety concerns. In some methadone clinics, people encounter long lines and close contact as they wait to receive their medication. This type of environment poses a significant risk for contracting COVID-19, especially for people with underlying health conditions that occur alongside their addiction.

New MAT Guidelines for Methadone

In light of the evolving COVID-19 situation, on March 16, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released new guidelines related to methadone, allowing up to four weeks of take-home doses. However, take-homes are only available to patients with stable recoveries, based on the recommendation and discretion of a methadone clinic physician. In the case of patients considered less stable, they will still be required to come to the clinic to receive their doses. If people cannot access methadone safely during the pandemic, it may cause them to experience unsafe withdrawal symptoms or return to drug use.

Transitioning from Methadone to Buprenorphine with Eleanor Health

In response to the new SAMSHA guidelines and as part of our COVID-19 readiness plan, Eleanor Health is taking the necessary steps to ensure that members receive the medications they need to sustain recovery. For members that can no longer safely receive methadone at a clinic, we are providing assistance with safely transitioning to buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone).

At Eleanor Health, our established virtual care model provides members with access to telehealth services for MAT, nursing, therapy, and groups. This ensures that our members can access their MAT appointments from the comfort of their home and receive prescriptions, without risking the disruption of their medication.

As always, we are closely monitoring our members’ progress and providing them with the support needed to gain the most benefits out of MAT. Throughout these challenging times, it is our goal to help you stay engaged in treatment and recovery, without being physically in the clinic.

If you want to start MAT, change prescriptions, or get more information, we’re here to answer your questions.

Find out more about the benefits of MAT–speak with one of our Addiction Treatment Specialists today.

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.

Eleanor Health

Recovery for life.

Our mission at Eleanor Health is to help people affected by addiction live amazing lives. We deliver whole-person, comprehensive care and are passionate about transforming the quality, delivery, and accessibility of addiction & mental health treatment. Our actions are rooted in respect for each member's values, culture, and life experiences, and our commitment to their wellbeing is unwavering and without judgement.

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