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The Biden Administration Is Easing Access to Methadone

Photo credit: Kevin D. Liles/AP

Fentanyl and other opioids are cutting lives short in numbers we’ve never seen before. Unfortunately, this health emergency hasn’t yet generated the national response we need. But there are some encouraging steps in the right direction—and among them are these new rules on access to methadone.

It’s been used effectively for over 40 years. It’s saved lives quite literally beyond counting. We’re talking about methadone, a medication that eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves cravings for users of morphine, heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. It’s only one tool in the recovery tool kit, but it’s a great one because it works.

And yet access to methadone is harder than it should be. Fortunately, the Biden Administration has been working since its inception to lower barriers to such medications.

The new policies, which are taking effect this summer, will allow nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants- rather than doctors alone- to order methadone. It will also end the rule that patients must have suffered from opioid use disorder for at least a year before receiving methadone—a self-evident absurdity for a country awash in fentanyl, which can kill on first use.

Even with the coming revisions, many consider federal rules too strict. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey criticizes one policy that will survive the changes, namely the restriction of methadone to just 2000 federally approved opioid treatment programs nationwide, and mentions profit motives as a possible explanation. Still, the coming changes are substantial, and all but guaranteed to save lives. Read all the details here:


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