Doctors might need to up their patient load during opioid epidemic

There aren’t enough doctors to treat people with opioid addiction issues, according to a report by the RAND Corporation.

Only some doctors are qualified to prescribe certain drugs that help patients deal with withdrawal symptoms or overdose dangers from opioids. But they might not be treating as many patients as possible to make a dent in the nation’s opioid crisis.

NPR reported that the study looked at the 3,234 doctors that treated an average of 13 patients each with Suboxone (to help people dealing with withdrawal symptoms) between 2010 and 2013.

About 20 percent of those doctors were able to treat up to 75 new patients in that time. But another 22 percent treated less than four new patients. Maybe the key to getting more people medical help with substance abuse issues is getting qualified doctors to take on more patients?

According to NPR, certain governmental and healthcare organizations are working to make drugs such as Suboxone more easily available to patients who need them. For example, the Obama Administration has increased the number of patients a doctor can treat for addiction from 100 to 250. And some doctors are realizing they have to step in when their existing patients start to struggle with addiction.

Check out NPR to see what resources for physicians the study’s authors recommended, including education about treating patients with addiction issues.