Concerns Over More Stringent Rules Returning for Virtual Addiction Treatment

A growing number of Americans with opioid use disorder (OUD) have benefitted from a rule change early in the pandemic that allowed them to access prescriptions of their controlled medications, via telehealth. These medications are heavily regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Normally, a patient must see their doctor regularly — in person — to get the medications. But at the outset of the pandemic, the DEA and all 50 states suspended those safeguards, even allowing prescribing by out-of-state physicians, a practice normally prohibited by medical boards.

The temporary telehealth expansions not only helped patients work around pandemic lockdowns, but they also eliminated some common barriers to care that have plagued addiction treatment. The allowances were tied to state or federal states of emergencies, so once those come to an end – absent new legislation – the pre-pandemic rules will come back, including requirements to see a doctor in person for a prescription.

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