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Medication-assisted treatment might help combat America’s opioid epidemic, say experts

Medication-assisted treatment might help combat America’s opioid epidemic, say experts

Medication-assisted treatment might help combat America’s opioid epidemic, say experts

January 3rd, 2017 | ASAH Team

Looking at the data pertaining to deaths involving opioids that continue to worry the nation, treatment experts across the United States are exploring sophisticated solutions to combat the epidemic. A powerful tool that has emerged to fight addiction to opioids and other substances is medication-assisted treatment. This is a comprehensive treatment method involving FDA-approved medications, behavioral therapy and counseling.

Quoting Dr. Tonmoy Sharma, the CEO of Sovereign Health, a San Clemente-based national provider of behavioral health services, a Los Angeles Times report said, “Addiction is a brain illness. Let us treat it with the respect it deserves and let us treat the illness like we treat the rest of medicine: in a manner that encompasses medication and non-medication modalities.”

Medication-assisted treatment is beneficial in treating uncomfortable addiction withdrawal symptoms encountered during addiction treatment programs that often make an individual leave the treatment midway.

Though medication-assisted treatment seems to be a lucrative option to treat substance addiction, it has a stigma attached to it that substance abuse should not be treated with substances. As per David Mee-Lee, M.D., senior vice-president of addiction information resource the Change Companies and chief editor of the American Society of Addiction Medicine criteria, the focus should be on the treatment outcomes and not on the treatment ideology.

As per an observation made by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS, in 2004, the substitution maintenance therapy can be helpful in reducing heroin use, associated deaths, HIV risk behaviors and criminal activity, leading to a decline in the high cost of opioid dependence.

What is a medication-assisted treatment?

Similar to treatment for other illnesses like diabetes, a medication-assisted treatment uses prescription medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. The FDA-approved medications can further help an individual undergoing addiction treatment manage drug and alcohol withdrawals. As per Dr. Sharma, medications can be helpful during detoxification as it can help ease substance cravings and other symptoms that often lead to a relapse.

Under medication-assisted treatment, different medications are used in different doses during various stages of addiction treatment. For example, methadone can prevent a person suffering from opiate addiction avoid the negative effects of withdrawal and reduce the urge to consume opioids to stop feeling sick. For those addicted to alcohol, naltrexone, sold under the brand name Revia, is helpful in preventing abuse as it helps minimize the pleasure experienced from alcohol, thereby, controlling alcohol cravings. Acamprosate, sold under the name Campral, and disulfiram, sold as a generic and under the brand name Antabuse, help discourage drinking among its abusers.

According to Dr. Mee-Lee, under this treatment process, a medication is not replacing the addictive drug but is treating the biological and neurochemical aspects of addiction. Instead of making a person experience a high, when prescribed in correct doses and at the right time, these medications correct the biological mechanism to help a person deal with their drug cravings, manage withdrawal symptoms and preventing relapses.

America’s prevalent opioid epidemic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014, there were 47,055 drug overdose deaths, of which 28,647 involved opioids. It highlighted that from 2014 to 2015, the death rates saw an increase by 16 percent, of which 72 percent was from heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The agency also reported a 3 percent increase in deaths from natural and semi-synthetic opioids such as codeine and morphine.

Road to recovery

It’s high time the nation looked out for effective means to curb the ever-expanding opioid epidemic. If you know someone battling an addiction to substances, it is time to seek professional help. Contact the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline to know about the best substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-857-5777 or chat online with our experts to get more information about the top substance abuse rehab clinic in Arizona.

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