“We have an opioid epidemic in this country that has been caused by many factors, including overzealous use of medication, the widespread availability of legal and illegal opioids, and societal expectations that all pain can be eliminated. We clearly cannot medicate our way out of the problem, but we have the opportunity to mediate the problem through more judicious use of prescription opioids.”
Dr. Tyler Oesterle, M.D., Medical Director, Fountain Systems, Mayo Clinic Health System
According to a new review of the current medical data about opioid addiction, Medication-Assisted Treatment is an underused weapon in the battle against the drug crisis in America.
This is a serious issue, because the effectiveness of MAT has been well established. Up to 70% of people treated with a combination of medication, counseling, and other evidence-based strategies are able to regain and maintain their sobriety.
Currently, there are three medications that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid addiction:
These medications provide several benefits — blocking the effects of misused opioids, reducing drug cravings, and easing of withdrawal symptoms.
Overall compliance is good among MAT patients, resulting in a higher rates of sobriety and fewer overdose deaths.
So Why Isn’t MAT Being Used More Often?
According to this review, one of the difficulties for people needing treatment is finding a provider who is able to prescribe these specific medications.
For example, although any doctor can prescribe and opioid medication for pain, only around 7% have the necessary extra training and special DEA license required to dispense buprenorphine.
In fact, although every part of America has been impacted by the opioid crisis, over half of all the counties in the United States lack a doctor able to prescribe this important recovery drug.
Even among treatment centers, only about 1 in 3 rehab programs offer MAT as part of a comprehensive plan of recovery.
Another issue is how the disease of addiction progresses. Dr. Oesterle says, “The development of an opioid use disorder can happen slowly, over time, and that makes it difficult to identify in primary care. We are currently researching better ways to identify details and advise patients.”
Is Medication the Answer to the Opioid Epidemic?
Yes and no.
Yes, because addiction is a disease of the brain. These medications specifically target the areas of the brain most affected by opioid abuse. By addressing drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, these medications help increase the likelihood of successful recovery while reducing the risk of relapse.
No, because addiction is a complicated disease that is caused by multiple factors. Because recovery involves more than just physical sobriety, the best evidence-based treatment programs address the disease on several levels, treating the whole person, not just their catalog of symptoms.
Dr. Oesterle says the best solution will be one that “utilizes the full repertoire of responses and resources we have at our disposal”. This would include not just medication, but also counseling, mental health services, behavior modification, social support, workforce rehabilitation, and long-term aftercare.
What Does This Mean to San Diego Residents?
There is no magic pill that cures addiction.
But MAT is a correct treatment option, because it treats addiction like the chronic medical condition that it is.
With the support of these medications, cravings and withdrawal symptoms are reduced to manageable levels, and real recovery can begin. The person can better focus on the lessons and the lifestyle changes that support long-term sobriety.
As the oldest and most respected outpatient alcohol and drug rehab program in San Diego, Lasting Recovery fully utilizes an evidence-based approach to treatment, including the use of MAT.
By including multiple strategies, including medication, counseling, peer support, and holistic therapies, Lasting Recovery can help you safely and successfully regain your sobriety, so you can live the life you deserve.
For more information about MAT, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY.