CHICAGO – The American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted several new policies, including supporting efforts to decriminalize the possession of non-prescribed buprenorphine for those without access to an opioid use disorder doctor.

Buprenorphine, an opioid partial agonist, can produce effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression, but these effects are much weaker than those of full opioids like heroin or methadone. The Food and Drug Administration has approved buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

“Opioid use disorder is a treatable medical disease, and buprenorphine is proven to be an effective treatment,” said Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, AMA president-elect and chair of the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force. “Given the innumerable barriers to care for opioid use disorder, combined with the clear benefits of increasing access to buprenorphine, decriminalizing non-prescribed buprenorphine for personal use is necessary to prevent more overdoses and deaths.”

In addition, the AMA is encouraging states and communities to ensure that schools have safe and effective overdose reversal medications, such as naloxone, readily accessible to staff, teachers, and students. As Emily’s Hope previously reported, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the naloxone product Narcan for over-the-counter sales in March 2023.

“Schools are recognizing the value of having naloxone on hand. It is a necessary layer of protection to keep young people safe and alive,” said Dr. Mukkamala.

The AMA also adopted a new policy supporting the placement of intranasal naloxone alongside automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public locations.