When the Covid-19 pandemic forced much of the US to lock down in the spring of 2020, officials and experts worried the necessary social distancing measures would make another public health crisis — the opioid epidemic — worse. Addiction treatment is traditionally done in person, and restrictions on gatherings and closed businesses would make it much less accessible.

So the federal government responded by easing rules for getting into treatment virtually — making it easier for treatment providers to retain patients and attract new ones. Even before the pandemic, experts had been calling for making treatment easier to get in the US, and the new rules were a big step forward.

But with vaccines for the coronavirus moving through clinical trials and the end of the pandemic in sight, advocates are worried that the old rules will snap back into place — making it harder, once again, to get people into addiction treatment.

Officials relaxed federal rules in several ways. They allowed doctors to prescribe buprenorphine, an evidence-based medication for opioid addiction, over video or audio calls without requiring an in-person evaluation. They also made it easier to prescribe the medication across state lines, which previously required prescribers to be licensed in both states. And they eased rules for take-home doses of methadone, another proven opioid addiction medication, which traditionally is administered daily to patients at an in-person clinic.

State and federal officials also made it possible for public health insurance programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, to pay for telemedicine addiction treatment services. And some places received permission to go further — for example, delivering methadone to patients rather than requiring they pick it up in person.

Read the full article about addiction treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic by  German Lopez at Vox.