The Rising Popularity of Medication Assisted Recovery
Medication Assisted Treatment (M.A.T.) is becoming ever more popular as the heroin epidemic spreads. The number one killer of young people cannot have just one treatment stay or rehab program to fight it, one solution to prevent it or one recovery to define it. We as communities around the country need more options and programs than that. Almost every disease or sickness in the world has more than one treatment but most people are convinced that for the disease of addiction, there is only one way out… abstinence. Heroin addiction is one of the most powerful, consuming and deadly public health crisis this country has ever seen. It’s time to start offering more than one “end all be all” solution to opiate addiction.
Medication doesn’t have to be the Destination but it can be part of the Journey
Five people will die within the next hour from opioid related overdose and when they die, loved ones will think of everything that could have been done to prevent the heartbreak they are now tortured by. Many times there is little to be done to prevent an addict from using heroin, especially after their mind has been made up. One thing that can be done though, while the addict is still living, is educating them on their treatment options. There is more than one way to combat heroin addiction. This education should be easily acquired by consulting an addiction treatment professional. The challenge we are seeing in the addiction treatment industry, is finding an addiction treatment professional who is not bias to treatments that they prefer or they offer. The recovery process from addiction is a long and sometimes very ugly one.
Countries like Canada and England are just as aware of this. There are a number of various other efforts over seas that have been incorporated to help fight this deadly disease in America and countries around the world.
Abstinence is almost always the first desired outcome for an addict in early stages of addiction. Complete and total abstinence is a goal because many doctors, addiction professionals and addicts agree that the phenomenon of craving is real. This phenomenon of craving is an idea not easily understood by those who are not addicted to drugs or alcohol. How its best explained is an obsession, a thought that clouds all other thoughts. This is where the common cliche “one is too many and a thousand is never enough” stems from. It’s the concept that once a person with a substance abuse disorder uses their drug or drink of choice one time they are overcome and overwhelmed by a compulsion to use again and again and again.
To achieve complete abstinence a person with a substance abuse disorder often enters into a treatment program. Upon completion of the program its suggested that the patient continue some form of self help group. “Self help” options include twelve step fellowships, S.M.A.R.T. Recovery or participation in religious groups. Twelve step programs are the most popular and are thought to be the most effective.
It’s common sense that a doctor shouldn’t put an addict who just started using drugs and hasn’t tried traditional treatment on medication. What happens though, when abstinence based programs are just plain, outright, not working? Does one continue to attempt this method until they either find success or die? In Canada after an addicts has three failed attempts in abstinence based programs they then are offered programs that incorporate medication. This is a smart standard to have and today in America, insurance companies are starting to implement similar statutes in their coverage options similar to Canada’s way of thinking.
Medication Assisted Treatment, the second treatment option.
Canada differs from the United States in one major way, universal health care. It costs the Canadian citizens and government a lot of money each time rehab doesn’t work. This is why a patient must attempt another treatment method after multiple failed attempts at abstinence. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results isn’t only crazy, it’s not cost-effective nor helpful to an addict still suffering. This is where medications such as Buprenorphine methadone play a role in the recovery process.
For many who cannot achieve total abstinence, this is the next line of defense. Patients on Buprenorphine are less likely to overdose, contract diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV or become incarcerated. Suboxone, which combines Buprenorphine and naloxone is made in a way that it cannot be used intravenously, which adds to the success of its patients. There has been a long standing stigma against this type of treatment. That stigma only adds to the mortality rate of our young people. Yes, medication might not be the final destination or end goal for many, but it allows a person addicted to opiates to START.
People often say getting sober isn’t the difficult part of recovery, staying sober is. Whether one person considered medication sober or not, most loved ones and addicts agree- it’s a thousand times better than having a needle in their arm. Most patients on a medication assisted treatment plan become gainfully employed, become a part of their family unit again and become proud citizens of their communities again. The stigma that those taking medication are “high” is a fallacy. Someone on Suboxone or Subutex should not be nodding out or feel high. This can happen if the doctor over prescribes the patient. Over-prescribing of medication happens often because an addict can lie about the quantity of illicit drugs they were consuming. A doctor is going to prescribe differently to a person using 1/10th of a gram of heroin than they would three grams of heroin, understandably.
When a patient starts the medication in a controlled environment like a treatment center the medical professionals will be able to adjust dosing to what’s right for the patient. The patient will continue to see a doctor one to two times a month while they are on the medication to track their success. When a doctor and patient agree, they will start to gradually reduce the medication. There is nothing a person on Buprenorphine medication cannot do that someone practicing total abstinence can. As stated before medication does not have to be part of the destination and no one should feel judged or embarrassed that their no longer hurting themselves and others by using illicit drugs.