How France is Winning in Its Own Opioid Crisis

What France Did Differently in Its Own Opioid Crisis

The United States isn’t the only country to have an opioid crisis; from the 1990’s, France had to deal with high levels of heroin abuse to the point where used syringes had to be collected from the soccer field before starting a match. But a change in drug administration policy in 1995 resulted in a 79 percent reduction in overdose deaths in an otherwise rising epidemic.

So, what did France do that may help the United States in its current opioid crisis? In this article, we will look at how France managed to reduce their heroin overdose death rates by 79 percent in just four years.

France’s 1995 Policy Change

The rates of overdose deaths linked to heroin abuse in France’s opioid crisis were rising by an average of 10 percent from the early 1990’s. The country had focused its efforts on just counseling and specialized rehabs; however, the death rates continued to climb.

Then in 1995, France changed the way buprenorphine was sold, allowing it to be sold without any specialized training or licenses. Buprenorphine is a medication that has components that block the effects of opioids, making it difficult to abuse by itself and an ideal medication to help wean a person off heroin or prescription pain killers.

In the coming years, primary-care doctors were able to prescribe buprenorphine, as opposed to only psychiatrists and addiction specialists. The number of substance abusers that were given the medication rose by as much as 10 times, allowing up to half of the country’s heroin addicts to get treatment. In as little as four years, the overdose death rates dropped by 79 percent.

At the same time, France established a needle exchange program, which allows addicts to have safe locations that are under specialized supervision to take their drugs. Such locations could help with overdose onsite and provided addicts with information on opioid addiction treatment. France’s medical system is also different from the United States with most users not having to worry about the cost of treatment.

Although some of the users found ways to abuse buprenorphine, the overdose death rates were nowhere near the levels the country had before.

Current Requirements for Buprenorphine Prescriptions in the United States

What are the differences in the way America prescribes opiate addiction medication such as buprenorphine compared to France? For a doctor to be able to prescribed opiate addiction medication, they must first undergo an eight-hour course. Doctors are notoriously busy, and many struggle to find the time to fit in another course. The classes also cost a great deal of money in some cases.

As much as 10 percent of the doctors in a study reported that they didn’t know how to get the waiver to be able to prescribe buprenorphine. Other findings and reports suggest that many doctors are simple daunted by the idea of treating addicts at their practice. Some doctors fear that as soon as the opioid addicts in the area discover that they have opioid addiction treatment medication, their offices will be overloaded with addicts seeking help, pushing out their regular patients.

On the other side of the spectrum, doctors don’t need to go through specialized training to be able to prescribe opioid pain relievers.

Even though there is an opioid crisis, Medicaid still only pays for a portion of the medications such as buprenorphine. Furthermore, state Medicaid programs have set specific limits on how they intend to cover the costs of buprenorphine.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.