July 29, 2020

How Physicians Can Help Patients in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sarah E. Swank, Esq. Nixon Peabody LLP, Washington, DC, Jena M. Grady, Esq., and Joanna Cohen, Esq., Nixon Peabody LLP, New York, NY

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency to address the national opioid crisis on October 26, 2017. Over two years later, while the country is still addressing the national opioid crisis, physicians work to find optimal ways to provide care to patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) or other substance use disorders (collectively with OUD, “SUD”) during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that 40–60 percent of individuals with SUD relapse.1 The fear is  that those in recovery could relapse due to isolation and lack of support groups and in-person treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and state agencies have issued guidance to physicians and others on how to provide care to this vulnerable patient population during this time.

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