It seems as though we live in a generation where we expect a pill or injection to fix everything. If you look back over time, you will see that medication assisted treatment is not a new concept. The medical profession and government have tried this a handful of times already; from Antabuse, to Methadone, to the latest craze, Vivitrol. All substances expected to be the “answer” to substance abuse, when in reality, they only delay the inevitable. If medication were the solution to the drug epidemic, then why didn’t it work decades ago?
It began with Antabuse, a drug meant to treat alcoholism which was introduced as early as 1951. The drug worked by preventing the breakdown of acetaldehyde, a substance produced when a person consumes alcohol. When acetaldehyde builds up in the bloodstream, negative physical symptoms occur. In short, if someone were to drink alcohol after taking Antabuse, they would become violently ill.
In theory, the drug sounds beneficial, but don’t forget, you cannot scare an alcoholic sober. Antabuse does absolutely nothing to fight against the mental obsession and urge to drink. Try telling an alcoholic to simply cope with immense cravings and overwhelming feelings in early sobriety. It would send anyone over the edge. This may play a part in the fact that 80% of patients eventually discontinue taking Antabuse and begin drinking again.
Medication Assisted Treatment For The Opioid Addict
Then Methadone, Subutex, and Suboxone were introduced to American consumers. All are opioid-based drugs designed to treat opioid addiction. Wouldn’t it be counterproductive to treat drug addiction with another highly addictive substance? Physicians and pharmaceutical companies would not think so. Although Methadone only accounts for 2% of all opioid prescriptions, it’s responsible for one third of all opioid-related overdoses each year. How can a drug that was meant to treat addiction and withdrawal account for so many deaths? Furthermore, as you would hear from many who have tried this alternative to heroin or prescription painkillers, the side-effects, dependency, and withdrawal symptoms are similar, if not worse than its cousin, heroin. Most methadone patients do not intend to remain on the drug for extended periods of time, yet many do because their bodies become dependent on the drug.
Subutex, the brand name for buprenorphine, was approved by the FDA in 2002 for the treatment of opioid-related disorders. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist which binds to the same receptors as heroin and opiate prescription medication. The purpose of the medication is to assist in the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Nevertheless, there is potential for abuse of this medication because, although only a partial opioid, still an opioid nonetheless.
Segway to Suboxone, another form of medication assisted treatment, which is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, also designed to ease opioid withdrawal, cravings, and abuse. Pharmaceutical companies made the decision to combine buprenorphine with naloxone, to reduce the possibility of abuse and injection of buprenorphine. When an addict injects Suboxone, in an attempt to feel a euphoric effect or high, the individual runs the risk of going into a precipitous withdrawal. This occurs due to the naloxone, a drug which blocks the effects of opioids rather than just substituting them for another opioid-like effect. When used properly in conjunction with therapy, Suboxone can be very beneficial in the detox process. Unfortunately, this is not always done and the results are not only harmful but also life threatening.
The Latest Form Of M.A.T.
As of late, naltrexone implants, Vivitrol injections and Suboxone implants are all the new craze. Many researchers, as well as medical professionals, are advocating for these new forms of medication assisted treatment. The hope is that these new advances will further deter relapse and noncompliance with oral medications. While implants and injections do in fact assure the use of the medication provided, without the proper treatment, counseling, and support groups put in place, an addict or alcoholic will use again. Medication alone will not “fix” the problem.
Medication assisted treatment is not a new idea, yet we treat each new advance as a miracle, dubbing it as the “cure” to addiction. Shouldn’t history be the best indicator? Antabuse, Methadone, Suboxone, and now, Vivitrol. Medication assisted treatment can be valuable in terms of the detoxification process, harm reduction, and decreasing the rate of heroin and other opioid-related overdoses. Nevertheless, it does not treat the addict on a mental, emotional and spiritual level. When underlying issues and concerns are not addressed and treated, chances are the addict will have a difficult time coping with both emotions and life circumstances presented to them. Most times, these are the things that drive an individual into addiction in the first place. As a result, many addicts will begin abusing other substances in conjunction with medication assisted treatment.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reported that in 2010, 30,135 Americans were admitted to emergency rooms for buprenorphine. Of those, 52% were for non-medical use, meaning the Suboxone or Subtex was not prescribed and bought illegally. 59% of those patients also reported having other drugs in their system, along with the buprenorphine.
For over 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has found success with an abstinence-based model of recovery. While integrating the 12-step philosophy of AA with group and individual therapy, as well as family education programs and relapse prevention education, we have been able to assist our patients in beginning on their journey to wellness. They start on this path to recovery fully abstinent from all mood and mind altering substances.
If you believe you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol and are ready to take the first step, contact our Admissions Specialists today. They are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have. We look forward to speaking with you.