Opioids and the French Connection

During France’s 1980s heroin epidemic overdose deaths rose 10% a year, but in 1995 a new policy allowed doctors to prescribe buprenorphine without special licensing or training. Within 4 years overdose deaths plummeted 79%, and primary-care doctors in the socialized health system became the dominant prescribers of the opioid addiction treatment.

It’s quite a contrast to the US, where doctors must sit through 8 hours of training to prescribe buprenorphine. State Medicaid systems limit buprenorphine coverage, and some doctors avoid becoming prescribers, making it harder to access.

“The French model raises questions about the value of tight regulations” on buprenorphine, wrote psychiatrist Marc Auriacombe in 2004.

The Atlantic

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