The opioid epidemic continues to be a high priority for the U.S. government. Not only is that evident by the $1 billion opioid-treatment grant added to last month’s spending bill that kept the government running, but also by President Donald Trump’s own comments on how he plans to combat the issue.
“We’re making medically assisted treatment more available and affordable,” Trump said last month.
Opioid treatment is one part of the Affordable Care Act that the Trump administration hasn’t rolled back. The issue of opioid addiction is one that has created unity in Washington D.C. It is one of the few issues that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working together to stop.
“The government is talking about treatment and medication-assisted treatment in a way that the government has never done before,” said Tom Hill, vice president of addiction and recovery at the National Council for Behavioral Health, an advocacy group for mental health and addiction treatment.
It has long been argued that medication assisted treatment should be a standard practice, but key hurdles have prevented its implementation. Some of the medications offered are opioids themselves. It’s a controversial practice with little research conducted on the effects that has on patients. Another factor is high cost.
Proponents emphasize that the medication-based treatment is an aid, not a cure. “It really is an assist to the treatment,” said Pam Ramsey, who serves as the outpatient director for the Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers in Youngstown Ohio.” Along with medication, treatment incorporates a version of the traditional 12-step approach to quitting, counseling sessions, group meetings, and follow-up. “Our goal is still abstinence,” Ramsey said.
The program being implementation by the government awards funding to states based on several factors, like number of opioid deaths in the state, as well as the number of people that are struggling to find treatment.
The program does have critics. Many say that there are patients who are reluctant to take medication because they want to avoid medication altogether. They want the government to emphasize other treatments as well.
“We should be increasing medication-assisted treatment,” said Jonathon Goyer, who serves as the manager of the Anchor recovery program. “But we should also be increasing everything else.”
Photo by Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner via Air Force Medicine