There’s no question about it. Addiction and overdose rates are soaring, well past anything we have ever seen before. With more people dying today from drug abuse than car crashes or gun violence, the common question among the general public is, how do we stop this? And, how do we best treat opioid addiction?
In most recent years, medication-assisted treatment has become probably the most popular and talked about form of care, for those struggling with opioid use disorders. M.A.T. utilizes medication in conjunction with both traditional and modern therapeutic techniques and tools. Within the last year, many have claimed it to be the “gold standard” in opioid addiction treatment, and fight for better access to this “life-saving” care. Nonetheless, there are still many downsides to medication-assisted treatment that advocates refuse to acknowledge, while slighting traditional forms of addiction treatment.
Within the past year, several studies have been published identifying exactly how effective, or ineffective, this form of treatment is. Additionally, as the popularity for medication-assisted treatment grows, we predict many similar studies will surface. It is important for those suffering with addiction, and their families, to be aware of these findings. Here’s what the most recent study concluded.
Suboxone & Vivitrol Face Off In New Study
A new study performed by Lancelot, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) compared the effectiveness of Vivitrol and Suboxone, two medications used in M.A.T. programs throughout the U.S. While Suboxone, a sublingual film and partial opioid agonist, has been around for more than a decade, Vivitrol is a newer form of medication, with fewer supporting studies. Vivitrol is an opioid antagonist that blocks opioid receptors within the brain. If an individual attempted to use heroin or other opioids while on this medication, they would simply not feel the effects of the drug. In order to qualify for the monthly injection, a patient must first be completely abstinent from all opioids from anywhere between 3 to 10 days. Suboxone on the other hand, while only a partial opioid, is still an opioid. Rather than blocking receptors, it actually activates the same receptors that heroin and prescription opioids do.
Both medications have downfalls, as Lancelot’s study and others have revealed. One major issue the study found was a patient’s ability to qualify for Vivitrol. In order for the medication to be effective, an opioid user must be completely abstinent for a period of time. The detoxification process from opioids has proven to be a very uncomfortable and painful process, so this step creates a significant hurdle for potential Vivitrol patients. The second, and probably more pertinent issue, is the relapse rate associated with both medications. Although medication-assisted treatment has been labeled the “gold standard” for opioid addiction treatment, relapse rates are higher than 50%.
What The Study Found
Specifically, the conclusions of the study are less than optimistic. The study performed by Lancelot was a randomized controlled trial, at 8 U.S. community-based inpatient facilities between 2014 and 2016. Of the 570 participants in the study, half were placed on Vivitrol and the other half on Suboxone. The researchers tracked participants relapse rates over a 24 week period. Observations found that initial dropout rates for Suboxone patients was 6%, whereas for Vivitrol patients, that number jumped to 28%. These initial findings coincide with the hurdle of qualifying for Vivitrol, which we previously spoke of.
What’s more shocking are the percentages of relapse associated with these drugs. The study found that 52% of Vivitrol patients went on to relapse, and 56% of Suboxone patients relapsed. Researchers found no differences between men and women, and other measures such as overdoses, opioid-negative urine screenings, and abstinence days did not differ between the two medications.
One major limitation that must be considered is that the research took place in an inpatient addiction treatment setting, where the environment is more controlled. If this study was performed in a less restrictive environment, such as outpatient addiction treatment, it is safe to assume those relapse percentages would be even higher.
M.A.T. Is Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be
Research tells us that medications like Suboxone and Vivitrol have the ability to reduce opioid overdose death by half. Yet, the relapse rate associated with these drugs is more than 50%. So, in a nutshell, an opioid user has a 50% chance of avoiding a fatal overdose when taking medication, but when treatment is complete or even during that same time, they have more than a 50% chance of relapsing. That relapse would then bring them back to square one, where they are at higher risk of dying from an overdose. Wouldn’t it just be easier to avoid medication all together and opt for a more traditional form of care that has proven to work?
You’ll constantly hear those in favor of medication-assisted treatment say that different options for addiction treatment are needed based upon the person. If that is the case, why are traditional forms, such as abstinence-based models, slighted and deemed, ineffective? 12 step programs and an abstinence-based approach have worked for millions around the world, yet so many continue to discredit the evidence of its efficacy. When our policymakers and news outlets continuously promote M.A.T. as the “gold standard” of treatment, even though their success rates speak the opposite, aren’t those in need only getting one piece to a very big puzzle? The public should be aware of what it is that they are being sold, and understand completely what their options are. In the end, medication-assisted treatment is not all that it is cracked up to be. The numbers speak for themselves.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, please do your research on all of your addiction treatment options and resources.
Contact Clearbrook Today For Addiction Treatment
Have you or a loved one found themselves in the grips of addiction, and feel that there is no way out. We are here to tell you that is not the case. There is hope, and it is found through recovery.
For 45 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing effective addiction treatment to those suffering from chemical dependency. We also provide family members will the support and education needed to battle addiction.
If you are ready and interested in coming to treatment today, please contact our Admissions Specialists. We are available 24 hours a day to assist you in all of your needs and answer any questions you may have.