Primary care physicians’ preparedness to treat opioid use disorder in the United States: A cross-sectional survey

Kathryn Foti, James Heyward, Matthew Tajanlangit, Kristin Meek, Christopher Jones, Andrew Kolodny, G. Caleb Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Efforts to increase opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment have focused on primary care. We assessed primary care physicians’ preparedness to identify and treat individuals with OUD and barriers to increasing buprenorphine prescribing. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey from January–August 2020 which assessed perceptions of the opioid epidemic; comfort screening, diagnosing, and treating individuals with OUD with medications; and barriers to obtaining a buprenorphine waiver and prescribing buprenorphine in their practice. Primary care physicians were sampled from the American Medical Association Physician Master File (n = 1000) and contacted up to 3 times, twice by mail and once by e-mail. Results: Overall, 173 physicians (adjusted response rate 27.3 %) responded. While most were somewhat or very comfortable screening (80.7 %) and diagnosing (79.3 %) OUD, fewer (36.9 %) were somewhat or very comfortable treating OUD with medications. One third of respondents were in a practice where they or a colleague were waivered and 10.7 % of respondents had a buprenorphine waiver. The most commonly cited barriers to both obtaining a waiver and prescribing buprenorphine included lack of access to addiction, behavioral health, or psychiatric co-management, lack of experience treating OUD, preference not to be inundated with requests for buprenorphine, and the buprenorphine training requirement. Conclusions: While most primary care physicians reported comfort screening and diagnosing OUD, fewer were comfortable treating OUD with medications such as buprenorphine and even fewer were waivered to do so. Addressing provider self-efficacy and willingness, and identifying effective, coordinated, and comprehensive models of care may increase OUD treatment with buprenorphine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108811
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • Buprenorphine
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Primary care
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Primary care physicians’ preparedness to treat opioid use disorder in the United States: A cross-sectional survey'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this