Facilitating access to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is critical to addressing the drug poisoning crisis; however, federal legislation that would ease restrictions around methadone dispensing could be dangerous for patients and communities, cautions an opinion piece published in StatNews.

In 2022, the Opioid Treatment Access Act was introduced to expand access to MOUD by modifying the regulation of OTPs. Section 4 of the Act would have allowed community pharmacies to dispense methadone to individuals for unsupervised use. Methadone, one of three medications approved by FDA to treat OUD, is a Schedule II controlled substance that is susceptible to diversion, misuse, and fatal drug poisoning when misused. Because of these risks, federal law requires methadone to be dispensed and consumed in highly regulated OTPs where counseling is also provided. Current regulations permit take-home doses for stable patients only under limited circumstances. “Broadly deregulating methadone prescribing,” the author warns,” completely disregards the proven value of behavioral counseling in opioid addiction treatment.”

In 2023, if Congress attempts to reform addiction treatment policies without the input of those with on-the-ground experience, it could exacerbate the drug poisoning crisis. Congress, alongside those who understand the nuances of OUD treatment, should push for regulations that help protect patients on their recovery journeys and increase access to MOUD, while ensuring appropriate provider oversight.

Read the full opinion piece here.