Primary Care treatment of opiate addiction

As most of you know, we have a terrible addiction problem, both nationwide and especially here in Knox County where we have the second highest overdose rate in Maine.  

We've generally treated addiction as a moral failing or as a poor choice using abstinence only and twelve step type methods to combat it.  While this has helped a few patients, the data show this is rarely successful.  We have much better success at getting patients with addiction back to stable lives by controlling their cravings for opiates with regular controlled doses of clean prescribed opiates.  Combining this with counseling to work on changing harmful behaviors and rebuilding lives is helpful.

While methadone gets most of the press and political attention, buprenorphine (Suboxone) is a much better option for many patients.  Primary care physicians are allowed to prescribe this in their offices after taking a short course and getting special permission from the DEA.  Buprenorphine is an addictive opiate itself but has unique properties that make it much safer and very useful for this type of treatment.  

At Megunticook Family Medicine, we now offer a small addiction program with Amy Barnett, a Rockland substance abuse counselor with years of experience.  By combining individual and group counseling with frequent physician monitoring of buprenorphine to control cravings, we hope to taper most patients off opiates over two years.  

Like the rest of our Direct Primary Care practice, we've worked hard to make this affordable to most patients.  Addiction treatment requires far more labor and testing resources when done properly so we are offering this as a separate, additional service.  Since we don't have the costs and hassles of billing insurance companies, we can offer addiction treatment for a lower out of pocket cost to our high deductible policy and cash patients than insurance oriented practices.  For those with (non-HMO) insurance or Mainecare most prescriptions and out of office tests are usually covered but check with your insurer.

For more information about this new service or Direct Primary Care in general, call us at 207-390-8570 or email us at

Posted on February 28, 2016 .