The FDA will expand medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction. In a recent article in the New York Times, they will share new treatment guidelines in the coming weeks. This change corrects misconceptions that patients must be totally abstinent for MAT to be effective. Current Health and Human Services secretary Alex A. Azar II announced this change during the recent National Governors Association.
During the event, Azar stated the following:
Medication-assisted treatment works…the evidence on this is voluminous and ever growing
Additionally, Azar cited statistics which show showing that only a third of specialized addiction treatment clinics offer MAT. Introducing these new measures are aimed to reduce the stigma surround medication-assisted therapy for opioid abuse. Currently, the FDA has approved Suboxone, methadone and Vivitrol for opioid addiction treatment.
The agency will soon release two guidances for drugmakers. One encourages the development longer-acting formulations of existing drugs. The other states the new drugs would be eligible for approval that don’t end addiction but with cravings or overdoses with overall goal being abstinence. Additionally, patients and their families will have input in assessing how useful those drugs are in treating their addiction.
A Change in Philosophy
The shift in thinking about medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction breaks from the current administration’s views of MAT. Recently, the Trump administration discontinued the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices program. The program helped professionals and patients separate evidence-based treatment such as MAT from ineffective interventions.
Secondly, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Kellyann Conway to oversee the White House’s opioid control efforts. Regarding the opioid crisis, Conway has stated that the best way to stop overdoses is if people just quit using drugs. Also, she has stated that a person’s will in stopping abuse is as important as funding to stop the crisis.
Despite these obstacles, addiction experts are positive regarding the expansion of medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction. Yngvild Olsen,medical director of the Institutes for Behavior Resources in Baltimore, stated the following:
The F.D.A. should keep companies focused on major clinical improvement for patients…A more thoughtful approach to measuring meaningful clinical improvement could expand treatment options, but there is a danger; subjective outcomes that are neither here nor there could encourage the development of products of questionable value.
Fighting the Stigma of Medication-Assisted Therapy for Opioid Addiction
The main push behind expanding MAT is the reduction of stigma. The sources of this stigma are numerous. Despite long-standing research stating that addiction is a complex and progressive disease, many still feel that addiction is a moral failing. Secondly, critics state that MAT is simply replacing one drug with another in the hopes of ending addiction. Additionally, addicts feel a great sense of shame in their addiction and are less likely to seek help.
Medication-assisted treatment is a different approach in treating opioid addiction. Traditional treatment approaches are based on total abstinence. A cornerstone of this philosophy are 12-step programs which are morally and spiritually based. While medication therapy is accepted in some 12-step traditions, others prohibit the practice on moral grounds. However, this conventional moral approach is not totally applicable to the treatment of opioid abuse since medications are considered necessary for treatment.
The Benefits of Medication-Assisted Therapy for Opioid Abuse
When combined with treatment, therapy and other interventions, medication-assisted therapy can be effective in overcoming addiction. The following are the advantages of MAT for opioid abuse:
MAT is Helpful in Early Recovery
Medication therapy helps reduce the discomfort associated with withdrawals. When an addict quits using opioids, the body adjusts to function without drugs. This can result in painful symptoms such as nausea, pain, vomiting, seizures, and even death. Additionally, addicts experience psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. MAT for opioid abuse helps reduce withdrawal symptoms as well as cravings.
Helps Restore Normal Brain Functioning
Another advantage of medication-assisted therapy is that is allows addicts to slowly wean off of substances. This approach increases the odds of the addict continuing with drug treatment. In addition to opioids, MAT can be used to treat addictions to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Additionally, it helps treat addict suffering from co-occurring mental disorders. 8.9 million Americans suffer from a dual diagnosis which requires more specialized treatment. Medication-based therapy for opioid addiction aids in dual diagnosis treatment.
MAT Helps Reverse Overdoses
An important advantage of MAT is the ability to reverse drug overdoses. Drug overdose is the leading cause of death in America. Statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that 64,000 Americans died from overdoses. The majority of these deaths were due to heroin and prescription medications.
Medications such as naloxone can reverse overdose by attaching to the brain’s receptors. As a result, it blocks the effects of the opioid that cause a person to stop breathing and allowing them to breathe normally on their own again. Sold as Enzio and Narcan, naloxone works within minutes and its effects can last for 30 to 90 minutes after administration.
Often used by medics, police and other emergency workers, new formulations have been approved for sale over the counter at pharmacies such as CVS. It is important to note that naloxone does not flush opioids from the system. It is important those who overdose need immediate attention from medical personnel.
Medication-Assisted Therapy is Not a Cure
There is no doubt that MAT has many advantages. However, it is important to note that medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction is not a stand-alone treatment. Medication-assisted treatment is effective when combined with intensive drug treatment, 12-step programs and other interventions. According to information from SAMHSA, MAT patients must receive counseling and therapy under federal law. Additionally, these services are required along with medical, vocational, educational, and other assessment and treatment services.
Medication-assisted therapy must OTPs must be accredited by an accrediting body that is approved by SAMHSA. Also according to SAMHSA, The Division of Pharmacologic Therapies (DPT), part of the SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), oversees accreditation standards and certification processes for these programs.
MAT programs must be administered by experienced medical personnel. The facilities where these programs are held need to be clean and safe to both patients and staff. Additionally, these programs need to be effective, backed by extensive research and proven to work. As with other interventions, medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction needs to have the ability to be tailored to meet each client’s unique needs.
Call Medically Assisted Treatment Today
Are you struggling with opioid addiction? Is a friend or loved one loses their battle with substance abuse? Drug addiction leave addicts and their loved ones feeling powerless and vulnerable. While your may feel there is no hope, medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction can help you kick the habit for good.
If you are looking for MAT programs or need more information, call Medically Assisted Treatment toll-free today. Our experienced staff can provide you the resources and support you need. We partner with the best MAT programs nationwide, and we will work with you to find the program that will help you succeed in sobriety.
Don’t wait another day to treat your opioid addiction, call Medically Assisted Treatment today and start your journey to lifelong recovery right now.