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There is no question that opioid addiction has had a devastating effect on our country, and worldwide. Overdose rates continue to rise and those affected by the disease, both the addict and the family, have grown to outstanding proportions. As the toll skyrockets, the same conversation continues to take place. “What’s the best form of treatment and how do we prevent the rising number of deaths?” Almost verbatim, the same answer pours from the mouths of our policymakers and leaders in government. “Medication-assisted treatment is the best, and most effective way, to tackle this issue.”

While this answer may address the latter portion of that question, it is counterproductive and detrimental, to the actual treatment of addiction. Over and over again we hear those in power call medication “treatment” and by doing so, the general public assumes it to be true. Rather than trying to pass something off as the “best line of defense,” let’s just call a spade a spade. Medication is not treatment, it’s a means of management. Yes, it may decrease the rising number of fatal overdoses, for the time being. But, in the long run, it simply adds to the issue at hand, inevitably setting up future generations for complete and utter disaster.

Case and point is the recent announcement made by FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, who is now looking to “destigmatize” M.A.T. programs and expand its use for all who “need” it.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Needed For A Lifetime?

Gottlieb met with the U.S. House committee last Wednesday to discuss medication-assisted treatment and the agency’s goal of “destigmatizing” the drugs utilized in this form of therapy. While many are now in favor of M.A.T. programs, criticism surrounding these methods are still alive and well…and for good reason.  Ultimately their goal is to “lift the stigma on the idea of using drugs to treat a drug habit.” Nevertheless, the FDA fails to realize this is not simply just stigma or an ignorant judgement passed on people who choose M.A.T. Rather, it is a belief formed based on the countless number of cases where treating drug addiction with other addictive drugs failed miserably.

Gottlieb told the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “This attitude reveals a flawed interpretation of science. It stems from a key misunderstanding that many of us have of the difference between a physical dependence and an addiction.” He went on to explain that medications, such as buprenorphine and Methadone may be needed for a LIFETIME and that the agency aims to modify drug labels to reflect that.

Those of us who have worked in the addiction treatment industry for decades argue that this attitude is not a “flawed interpretation” or “key misunderstanding,” but rather the contrary. Again, the reason so many of us believe in abstinence-based treatment and oppose M.A.T. is founded on both expertise and experience in dealing with thousands of individuals who have FAILED on maintenance programs. To say that a lack of understanding in the difference between physical dependence and addiction is present, and in the same breath suggest that these medications may be needed indefinitely is moronic and completely contradictory. Okay, maybe studies tell us that medication-assisted treatment can reduce the risk of fatal overdose by half, but science also tells us that these drugs are addictive and harmful in long-term use.

Prescriptions For All Overdose Victims

Along with modifying labels to reflect an indefinite need for these addictive drugs, the FDA also hopes to revise labels, so anyone who suffers an opioid overdose can be prescribed these medications. While that may sound well and good, in theory, it poses too many risks regarding regulation.

Let’s play the scenario out fully. Say for instance, an opioid addict overdoses, emergency responders are called, and the individual is revived with Narcan. From there, it is standard procedure to transport the overdose victim to the local emergency room. At that point, what happens? The doctor on call prescribes Suboxone? Do they have the necessary qualifications and licensures to treat addiction and prescribe opioid addiction medication? What happens after the prescription is written? Is there a follow-up procedure put in place to make sure they are abstaining from other drugs? As you can see, there are too many unanswered questions regarding this matter. Furthermore, there are several risks associated with prescribing medications to every overdose victim.

Studies reveal that drugs, like Methadone and Suboxone, can have adverse effects when used in conjunction with other drugs. The risk of overdose increases significantly if an individual takes Suboxone or Methadone with a benzodiazepine or alcohol. Medication alone will not “do the trick.” Recovery from addiction only takes place when the necessary clinical tools and approaches are applied to treat the underlying causing of that addiction. Without it, prolonged suffering is inevitable. Furthermore, the more doctors that are able to prescribe these medications, the greater the possibility that those drugs will be overprescribed and diverted on the black market.

Not Even A Fighting Chance

At the end of the day, this push made by the FDA will not empower the addict, but instead harm them further. When we tell someone that they will need a lifetime of M.A.T. drugs to stay sober, we are ultimately writing them off as a lost cause. Inherently, we are saying, “You will not stay sober without some form of medication.” For those of us who have suffered from addiction, and were able to find our way out through abstinence and the 12 steps, know how utterly wrong that statement is.

Furthermore, as some use the argument that medication-assisted treatment can reduce the risk of overdose by half, why is no one talking about the quality of life M.A.T. gives a person? Yes, maybe that medicine prevented death, but the individual is still not free from the disease. They are still tormented by the mental obsessions associated with addiction, they feel numb to the world around them, and in the end, are still dependent on a substance to live a halfway normal life.

Contact Clearbrook Today

Have you been promised a life free from addiction through the use of medication, but found more of the same? Do you find yourself addicted to a drug that was promised to save you? If so, you should know that you are not alone in your struggles.

Here at Clearbrook Treatment Centers, we have treated many individuals who became addicted to drugs, like Suboxone and Methadone. Through utilizing an abstinence-based model of treatment, we were able to offer those individuals a life free from ALL mood and mind-altering substances, giving them the opportunity to experience true freedom. You can have that too!

If you are currently struggling with addiction or alcoholism, help is available. Please contact our Admissions Specialists today and see what REAL recovery has to offer.






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