Drug treatment of veterans with opioid use disorder increased during the first year of the pandemic, according to a new study, suggesting that the rapid shift from in-person to telehealth visits at VA medical centers enabled patients to get access to care despite Covid-related disruptions.
The study, published Thursday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that the number of Veterans Health Administration patients receiving buprenorphine for opioid use disorder increased 14% in the first year of the pandemic compared with the preceding 12 months. This coincided with a huge jump in use of telephone and video telehealth visits for prescribing buprenorphine, from 11.9% of visits in March 2019 to 82.6% in February 2021.
Buprenorphine is one of only two treatments associated with reduced mortality among people with opioid use disorder and the only one that is easily accessible at clinics and doctor’s offices.
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