Treating Opioid Use Disorder in Rural Areas Depends on Family Physicians

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, Oct. 3, 2016

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224 

WASHINGTON, DC — Training in buprenorphine administration during family medicine residency training can be a key solution to the opioid addiction crisis spreading across rural America, according to research by the Robert Graham Center.

In the research, “Rural Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Depends on Family Physicians,” Peter Wingrove and his colleagues analyze data on physicians who are approved to prescribe buprenorphine and their practice locations.

They found that more than one-third of physicians approved to prescribe the medication are psychiatrists. However, only 5.5 percent of these psychiatrists practice in rural areas. Conversely, although only one in five physicians approved to prescribe buprenorphine is a family physician, a greater proportion (15.4 percent) of them practice in rural areas.

The research one-pager was published in the Oct. 1 issue of American Family Physician.

“Among physicians approved to prescribe buprenorphine, family physicians are most likely to work in rural areas,” Wingrove wrote. “…More than any other specialty, increasing the number of approved family physicians, particularly through expanding buprenorphine training in residency programs, would help to rectify the relative shortage of physicians approved to prescribe buprenorphine in rural areas.”

Buprenorphine has been shown to effectively manage opioid addiction and is the foundation of medication-assisted treatment for patients with opioid abuse or addiction disorders. Physicians must have completed training specific to buprenorphine administration before they can receive a Drug Enforcement Administration waiver enabling them to prescribe the drug.


About the Robert Graham Center

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care works to improve individual and population health by enhancing the delivery of primary care. The Center staff generates and analyzes evidence that brings a family medicine and primary care perspective to health policy deliberations at local, state, and national levels.

Founded in 1999, the Robert Graham Center is an independent research unit affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The information and opinions contained in research from the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.