Earlier this month, President Joe Biden released new guidelines making it easier for some doctors and other medical practitioners to prescribe potentially life-saving opioid treatment medications. Previous guidelines required health workers to receive additional training, including an 8-hour course for physicians and a 24-hour course for all other medical professionals, to prescribe buprenorphine – known more commonly as Suboxone – to people addicted to opioids. A low participation rate in the training program has meant that in some places, people with opioid addictions could not access treatment by find someone to that could prescribe the drug. The new guidance relaxes changes the training requirements for health-care workers treating 30 people or fewer, although it keeps the requirements in place for those seeking to treat up to 275 people. Indiana University expert Robin Newhouse says the new guidelines are welcome. Newhouse says access is the first step in building healthy, connected, and supportive communities. And there are other factors that need to be considered, including integrated, coordinated care among services (such as infection control and mental health), payment for services, and quality metrics to monitor policy clinical and economic outcomes. Nearly 50,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2019, the most recent year of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 1999, more than 800,000 people have died of a drug overdose, according to the CDC, a majority of which have been opioid-related. Newhouse says symptoms of opioid use disorder can be safely and effectively reduced by medication assisted treatment, like buprenorphine. She says the impact of the new guidelines could be significant, depending on the ability of the policy to increase medication assisted treatment providers to facilitate access to treatment. However, she says guidelines will not go far enough until all people with opioid use disorder have access to the treatment they seek and need.
In other news, for some people, social gatherings can be a time to imbibe. And for some, that can turn into a time to overindulge. But how do your neighborhood and your social network affect your binge drinking? Along with colleagues at the RAND corporation in Santa Monica, IU researcher Hank Green examined how neighborhood and social network characteristics relate to adult binge drinking. He and his co-authors found that both factors play a role in how much someone drinks, information that can help us better understand binge drinking among adults. Green says living in a highly cohesive neighborhood may impact social norms and constrain behavior in such a way that binge drinking is very unlikely, even if the opportunity to drink arises. The researchers also found that, for those who live in neighborhoods they consider safe and orderly, and who have a more interconnected social network, the likelihood of social drinking increases, and drinking heavily might occur in those social drinking situations, regardless of how cohesive they find their neighborhood to be. However, the study also found that neighborhood and network factors also restrict how often someone binge-drinks, probably through social control processes such as friends and neighbors looking out for each other or commenting on someone’s drinking. In neighborhoods ranked by study participants as disordered, unsafe, and lacking cohesion, neighborhood factors lose their overall impact. Social networks tend to take over the role of social control, according to the study. In these types of neighborhoods, it's people with more interconnected social networks who binge less often. Green says the study could help inform intervention practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy which already focuses on identifying people and places that trigger binge drinking and addressing those triggers with behavioral changes. Indirectly, Green says, the study suggests that those interventions could also focus on people and places that discourage binge drinking or facilitate less frequent binge drinking and better drinking choices.