Office-based treatment of opioid dependence with buprenorphine has the potential to expand treatment capacity in the United States. However, nationally, little is known about the number, characteristics, and experiences of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine. Moreover, little is known about the impact of easing federal regulations on the number of patients a physician is allowed to treat concurrently. To address these questions, surveys of national samples of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine (2004-2008) were analyzed (N = 6,892). There has been a continual increase in the number of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine, increase in the mean number of patients treated by physicians, and decrease in patients turned away, coinciding temporally with easing of federal regulations. In addition, most physicians prescribed buprenorphine outside of traditional treatment settings. The U.S. experiment in expanding Schedule III-V medications for opioid dependence to physicians outside of formal substance abuse treatment facilities appears to have resulted in expanded capacity.
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