APA Comments on Buprenorphine Guidelines

It’s rare that new pharmacotherapies for the treatment of drug dependence actually make it to market, so it was very exciting to see buprenorphine gain FDA approval for the treatment of opiate dependence in office-based settings. On December 10, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held a joint press conference with representatives of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to debut the new medication.

It’s rare that new pharmacotherapies for the treatment of drug dependence actually make it to market, so it was very exciting to see buprenorphine gain FDA approval for the treatment of opiate dependence in office-based settings. On December 10, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held a joint press conference with representatives of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to debut the new medication. During the press conference, Mr. Odis Rivers, heroin-dependent for 30 years, provided a touching and impassioned account of his life, including the impact that APA member Bob Schuster had on him during buprenorphine treatment. He closed with a tribute to Bob saying, "Wayne State and Dr. Robert Schuster had been a tremendous, tremendous part of my life.”

Many APA members have contributed to our understanding of this medication via preclinical and clinical psychopharmacology research as well as research demonstrating the importance of combining behavioral and psychosocial interventions in the treatment of opiate dependence. That story will be told in an upcoming edition of the APA Monitor. In December, Science Policy Staff were invited to review SAMHSA’s Buprenorphine Clinical Treatment Guidelines, and this provided an opportunity for another successful science/practice translation activity. We are grateful to Geoff Reed, PhD, APA Practice Directorate’s Assistant Executive Director for Professional Development; Division 50 President, Rudy Vuchinich, PhD; and Division 50 member Reid Hester, PhD, for their help in facilitating/conducting the review. The guidelines should now reflect, at multiple points, opportunities for physicians to access appropriately trained psychologists as treatment referral resources (a point we tried to address as buprenorphine legislation was under consideration). In addition, APA’s College of Professional Psychology and State Advocacy staff have expressed their willingness to help SAMHSA continue outreach to APA members interested in patient referral. To see additional background information about buprenorphine, visit APA's website.