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How to make methadone more available

Methadose tablets, the concentrated form of Methadone.
Methadose tablets, the concentrated form of methadone. Photo: Whitney Hayward/Portland Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

As the opioid epidemic rages on, methadone — 1 of 3 approved medications to treat opioid use disorder — can be hard to come by, according to a new article in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: Although it's effective, it's heavily regulated and can only be obtained at opioid treatment programs. These are subject to strict federal, state and even local rules. But many communities don't have enough treatment programs to meet the demand for them.

Details: Methadone could be made more available in primary care settings, which would increase treatment capacity, the paper argues.

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration could also regulate mobile methadone vans, which have been used in several states to reach patients who can't travel to a treatment program.
  • States could encourage the use of "medication units," which are associated with a treatment program but provide off-site medication at places more convenient for patients.
  • States could also loosen restrictions on the number of treatment programs or the services they offer.

Go deeper: The first big opioids verdict is both big and small