A Look at Medication and Opioid Addiction- Can it help you or hurt you?

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Written by, Ivy Chase.

Drug treatment providers and policy makers are leaning more toward opioid medication instead of abstinence for weaning addicts of the drug.  For decades these professionals have relied on abstinence and therapy to treat addiction.  More recently, they seem to be turning to medication.


As an increasing epidemic and rising numbers of overdose deaths, policymakers are faced with this issue and are ramping up medication assisted treatment.  President Obama said, last week, he’d allocate more money for states to expand access to the medications.  He also proposed that physicians be able to prescribe one of the most effective anti-addiction drugs, buprenorphine, to more patients.


California already plans to expand access to these medications as it launches an overhaul of the state’s substance abuse treatment system for low-income residents.   California recently embarked on a five-year trial project on the premise that addiction is a chronic disease and should be treated as such.


Most of us know, that medication is not for everyone.  It can be critical for some people with severe addiction, the medications have been proven as the key to really helping people recover, so it seems.  The best known medication, methadone, blocks the effect of certain drugs and lessens withdrawal symptoms.  Methadone is highly regulated and only can be prescribed by clinics that are approved by the government.


The medications used to treat opioid addiction are available across the country and must be prescribed by physicians with special training.  There are about 30,000 authorized doctors to do this nationwide, and they can only prescribe to a limited number of addicts.  President Obama proposed that qualified doctors could prescribe buprenorphine to 200 patients rather than the current 100.


In California, this change would make a big difference in California.  Currently in California, they are trying to improve linking treatment centers with trained prescribing doctors allowing physicians to consult with one another on treatment options for patients.  This can be new information to some of these physicians, even in the addiction field.


Using medication in treatment conflicts with the 12-step and Narcotics Anonymous Philosophy of recovering from addiction.  The philosophy of NA is based on abstinence, however for many, the concept of simple abstinence doesn’t work.  Talk therapy doesn’t relieve the compulsion of addiction for everybody, experts say, the reality is that, that is just not efficient, and there must be other tools available.


Medication is a very successful, evidence-based treatment  available.  More access to these medications have a  big impact on those with substance abuse disorders however the medication should be used in combination with traditional program methods.  Of course this method has an enormous effect on a person’s ability to recover when it is prescribed with the necessary counseling and social support.


Medication assisted treatment for addiction is increasing everywhere.  It reduces cravings and drinking.  It’s  important to have respect for those who utilize complete abstinence, but true recovery is defined on  a case to case basis.  Medications can be very effective and could even be more integrated into overall recovery for people with substance abuse disorders.  Making more options available to addicts would increase the number of them to continue on in recovery rather than giving up and turning to a future without little solution and more drug abuse.


At Anaheim Lighthouse, we offer medication to assist in detox and treatment.  If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, please, call us today at (877)959-5909 we can help you with recovery.

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