Prescription medications are standard treatment for patients who present high blood pressure in the emergency department (ED). However, when a patient is dealing with a substance use disorder (SUD), doctors often have limited options. #GetWaivered, a new program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is expanding those options and enhancing outcomes for patients with opioid dependency.
Introduced by MGH Emergency Medicine Chief Resident Alister Martin, MD, the program encourages providers to participate in specialized training to prescribe buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone), which curbs opioid cravings and reduces withdrawal effects. Currently the standard of care, the medication is under-prescribed, in part, because it requires an eight-hour training course and a government waiver – not to mention physician hesitation to treat populations with SUDs. But experts agree that buprenorphine is an important treatment tool where few are available; one study showed that starting the drug in the ED improved the chances of treatment longevity by 50 percent.
MGH is offering the medication, which 55 primary care doctors have been waived to prescribe, as part of a spectrum of efforts oriented toward patients’ recovery care, including multiple specialty clinics. Patients can also receive care from many additional nurse practitioners and physicians that have been educated in the nuances of addiction treatment throughout the Partners HealthCare network.