America’s doctors can beat the opioid epidemic. Here’s how to get them on board.

Published by VOX
July 31, 2018
by German Lopez

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — A primary care physician assistant’s work typically looks a lot like that of other providers in the field: conducting physical exams, administering tests and checkups, and taking other steps to ensure that a patient is generally in good health. But in the middle of America’s deadly opioid epidemic, Lindsay Fox has taken on another task too — figuring out how to treat patients in the throes of drug addiction.

“This is not an easy group of people to treat,” Fox, who sees patients at the Southwest Mesa Clinic in Albuquerque, told me. “However, to bear witness and share space with someone who … has been supported by their family and their clinic and their provider, and has really challenged themselves to transition off of opioids and find sobriety, that’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever witnessed as a provider. Looking back at all the stories, that’s really what keeps me going.”

In the US, though, most providers don’t get past the initial hurdle that Fox mentioned — the potential difficulty presented by people with addictions. So many don’t even have the legal ability, as Fox does, to prescribe buprenorphine, one of the medications widely regarded as the gold standard for opioid addiction care.

 

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