Proposed legislation would make it easier to prescribe drug to treat addiction

Bill on buprenorphine proposed by US House Rep. Mike Turner

The United State House of Representatives passed a local Congressman’s bill that will make it easier for doctors to prescribe a drug as a treatment for substance abuse.

Buprenorphine is a drug that Dr. Natalie Lester, chief medical officer of OneFifteen in Dayton, said helps people who are addicted to opioids recover and will become more easily accessible thanks to a bill by Congressman Mike Turner, R-Dayton.

“It’s a medication I prescribe very commonly to individuals struggling with opioid addiction,” Lester said.

OneFifteen is a center that helps people in Dayton overcome substance disorders. Buprenorphine is a medication that has multiple uses, Lester said. First, doctors can use it to help someone going through withdrawals from addiction. People who are addicted to opioids often get sick while they are trying to become sober. It can also be used to help people stay sober after they get through withdrawals, she said.

“We absolutely see people go from really struggling with an intense addiction to being able to be stabilized,” Lester said, adding that people who are put on the medication are far less likely to die from an overdose than people who are not put on medications.

The doctor said there has been a shift in the types of drugs people are using here. In the past, heroin and prescribed opioids were the major problems. Now the issue is fentanyl.

The federal government has debated how buprenorphine should be prescribed and who should be doing the prescribing. The law now requires a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration before a doctor can prescribe the drug, causing delays. Turner said Tuesday that his bill, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act, has bipartisan support and was passed by the House in June.

“We are hoping that the Senate will see the importance of this, pass it and get it to the president’s desk and then hopefully we can get back to more widely available,” Turner said.

More than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States last year and Turner said because of the waiver requirement, only about 40% of counties in the United States have a physician licensed to prescribe buprenorphine. So far this year in Montgomery County, 144 people have died from accidental overdoses, according to preliminary data from the Montgomery County Community Overdose Action Team.

Local doctors getting involved and calling for change helps him and other representatives advocate for the passage of the new law. he said.

“As we look to OneFifteen, we’ll continue to listen to where they see that there are changes that can be made, rules that can be made, new legislation and of course resources that can be brought to bear to try to assist the community in rising to this occasion,” he said.

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