With prescription pill addiction on the rise everywhere in the country, the issue of opioid dependence is no longer something hidden in the shadows. As the issue of addiction becomes more prevalent in our political landscape, candidates and many elected officials are searching for ways to help increase the availability of treatment for those in need. Recently, President Obama requested $1.1 billion in funding for the 2017 budget to expand access to medication assisted treatment. This brings up a hot button issue in the field of addiction treatment. Does medication assisted treatment simply replace addiction to one substance with another?
First, to understand this issue, we must understand a bit about the history of opioid treatment, medical and otherwise. Methadone, had long been considered a suitable treatment for heroin, and other opioid addiction. Methadone itself is an opioid, that is regulated and disseminated at clinics. However, being an opioid itself, Methadone is a highly addictive substance. Former heroin addicts have been known to become addicted to Methadone, and pursue the drug as viciously as heroin itself.
Subsequently, buprenorphine was introduced to the market as a medication that helped mitigate the horrific withdrawal symptoms of opioid and heroin addiction. Again, buprenorphine is in the opioid family and is also physically addictive. While the euphoric effects are not nearly as significant as those of heroin, prescription opiates, or methadone, individuals can abuse buprenorphine and become addicted.
Non-medication assisted treatment also has a long and tumultuous history. When Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935, there were very limited options for alcoholics and addicts in terms of treatment. There were hospitals, alternative therapies, and asylums. A proven form of treatment had not existed. As Alcoholics Anonymous evolved into one of the greatest social movements of the 20th century, programs began sprouting up in various parts of the country, first stabilizing patients, and then employing the principles of AA to treat those suffering from addiction. Advances in science and medicine have provided a number of medicinal aids in the treatment of addiction over the past decades, but the principle of abstinence from drugs and alcohol remains a cornerstone of the treatment industry, specifically in the United States.
There are other approaches to addiction treatment, such as harm reduction, evidence-based, holistic, and of course, medication assisted. Current treatment programs include a number of psychological, physical, and psychiatric components to collectively treat the entire mind, body, and spirit of those clients seeking freedom from addiction.
In a large number of treatment programs throughout the country, the medication assisted approach is only used during the detoxification stage of treatment for opioid addiction. Many treatment providers, and others in various circles of recovery are of the opinion that abstinence is the most effective treatment for opioid addiction. Using medication to help stabilize individuals during the detoxification process, and then tapering off the prescription supplements allows for individuals to safely withdraw from heroin and other opiates, and begin the process of treatment without any mood altering substances in the brain and body.
This controversy is not new, but with addiction to opioids on the rise, and gaining visibility in the public spotlight, the debate continues louder than it has in the past. The idea of methadone or buprenorphine maintenance programs as a form of treatment for opioid dependence versus abstinence is one that has been present for decades, and will likely continue to be a debated issue. The question is, what are your thoughts?
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