News & Updates Program Brief

New Issue Brief Explores How COVID-Era Flexibilities Affected Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

April 05, 2023

To sustain access to treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) during the coronavirus pandemic, federal policymakers changed some of the regulations governing the prescribing and use of medications for OUD (MOUD), including allowing some take-home methadone doses and greater use of telehealth visits.

In a new issue brief, we report the findings of FORE-supported researchers who surveyed nearly 500 MOUD patients and nearly 400 providers to explore how these changes affected them. They found there were few negative, unintended consequences of loosening restrictions on OUD treatment: providers did not report substantial increases in drug diversion, overdoses, or patients dropping out of treatment. But because the treatment changes were voluntary, not all providers adopted them and not all patients benefitted.

Findings from these projects hold lessons for policymakers who are now considering whether to retain these flexibilities and what else may be needed to bring lifesaving treatment to more people.