Six Myths About Treating Opioid Addiction with Telemedicine and MAT

Although much of the nation’s attention has been devoted to the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid epidemic is also ravaging our nation.

The opioid crisis continues to harm and kill Americans daily. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, about 50,000 people die from opioid overdoses every year[1]. In 2017, the opioid epidemic in the U.S. was declared a national public health emergency[2].

The problem has only been exacerbated by the new economic and financial struggles facing our nation in the wake of COVID-19. For instance, overdoses have jumped by 30%[3] in 2020. These staggering numbers are grim, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. QuickMD is taking the lead in helping Americans overcome their opioid addiction safely and confidentially with the help of telemedicine and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Thousands have experienced success in overcoming their opioid dependency due to Suboxone®[4], the most popular brand name of buprenorphine with naloxone. Despite this promising outlook, myths about telemedicine and MAT persist. Let’s dispel six of the most prevalent myths about telemedicine and opioid addiction treatment.

Myth #1: Opioid addicts are all homeless junkies.

Drug abuse is undoubtedly prevalent amongst our country’s homeless population. Tragically, homelessness and addiction go hand in hand. Opioid dependency, whether it's misusing prescription opioids or using heroin or Fentanyl, does not distinguish between socioeconomic classes. Health and Human Services statistics show that in 2019, more than 10 million people misused opioids[5], with less than 10% of this number arising from injecting heroin, the most common form of opioid abuse among the homeless.

Most patients with opioid use disorder have a home, family, and a job. Unfortunately, these patients suffer silently, struggling to juggle their responsibilities with the constant craving of their addiction.

Myth #2: Laws prohibit telemedicine doctors from treating addiction.

This misunderstanding is rooted in opioid treatments of the past. In the past when methadone, a Schedule II controlled substance, was the best option for the treatment of opioid addiction, more controls were put in place to keep the drug from being abused. This is still the case with methadone. However, QuickMD’s MAT program does not prescribe or suggest methadone, and instead utilizes Suboxone®.

Surprisingly, regulations do not prohibit the use of telemedicine for patients with opioid addiction, they endorse it. The SUPPORT Act, signed into law[6] in 2018, specifically approves telemedicine for use in addiction treatment. The U.S. government also recognizes that telemedicine will play in overcoming our nation’s opioid epidemic. This is where telemedicine MAT (TeleMAT) companies, like QuickMD, come into play in helping patients.

Myth #3: Doctors can’t offer addiction medication without an in-person consultation.

This is another myth from the past when methadone was most prescribed. For a tightly controlled medication like methadone, a face-to-face consultation is necessary, along with daily clinic visits to have medication administered under a monitored setting. This arrangement is simply not practical for millions of Americans, who work full time, and or who have children to care for. Fortunately, QuickMD’s service and expertise have made it the number one choice for thousands of patients, many of whom come to QuickMD based on word-of-mouth referral.

Many patients don’t live close enough to a methadone clinic to take advantage of the in-person treatment option. Furthermore, many patients do not have the time to attend daily visits at a clinic for monitored administration of medication. Patients also feel comfortable with the level of confidentiality and privacy they have with the telemedicine option. QuickMD overcomes many of these hurdles by offering patients the ease of scheduling appointments with their physician from the comfort and privacy of their own home, while maintaining the confidentiality they often desire.

Myth #4: The only true medication for opioid addiction is methadone.

Some providers even within the medical field still believe that methadone is the only standard and approved treatment for opioid use disorder. QuickMD’s physicians are trained in the latest protocols of treating opioid use disorder and are licensed to prescribe suboxone for MAT, or medication-assisted treatment.

MAT combines[7] the use of medications like Suboxone® with counseling and behavioral therapies to help patients overcome their opioid addiction. Accordingly, it’s fair to assert a doctor who still considers methadone to be the only option is a physician who is not familiar with the current standards of opioid addiction treatment.

Myth #5: It is tedious and time consuming to get Suboxone®.

Unlike methadone, Suboxone® is a very convenient medication to have prescribed via telemedicine. Most patients will have the medication on hand within hours of having the prescription electronically transmitted. They do not have to wait hours to be seen by a physician or have the medication administered to them daily at a clinic. During a typical telemedicine consult the physician takes the patient’s history, assesses the need for MAT, and determines the correct dose for the patient. The physician is then able to electronically prescribe the medication to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. Unlike methadone, Suboxone® is not a Schedule II controlled substance[8], instead it is a Schedule III substance. This means it has a significantly lower potential for abuse due to the opioid-receptor antagonist with the naloxone component of the medication. All of this makes it very convenient for patients to obtain their medication.

Myth #6: Suboxone causes serious side effects for patients.

Suboxone® is generally a safe medication[9]. QuickMD’s physicians, who specialize in addiction treatments, have consistently found it innocuous to prescribe via telemedicine, and it has proven reliable for most patients in non-observed settings. However, like any medication, there are sometimes mild nonspecific side effects that patients may experience. These include, dizziness, hives, rash, nausea, and pain, vomiting or sleep disturbances.

Patients typically report that their side effects are minor, especially compared with the relief they get from opioid withdrawal and cravings. Also, each patient is afforded the chance to review the safety of Suboxone® with their physician and concerns with their pharmacist, as they would with any prescription medication.

Based on these factors, it is demonstrably clear teleMAT is helping Americans from all walks of life overcome opioid addiction every day. If you are interested in learning more or becoming part of the telemedicine answer to America’s greatest challenge, please contact QuickMD now.

Authors:

Jared Sheehan: Jared is the Chief Operating Officer at QuickMD. He is a serial entrepreneur who has worked at the intersection of social impact and technology for the last decade. Prior to QuickMD, he was a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting in their Social Impact Strategy practice. Jared is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and has deep healthcare experience, including the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Aurora Healthcare, Neeka Healthcare, Scripps research, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Jared is the winner of the FDA Naloxone App Competition. Jared graduated Summa Cum Laude from Miami University.

Dr. Mazna Ahmad, MD: Completed her medical school at Ross University School of Medicine. Dr. Ahmad trained in Internal Medicine at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. She has over 13 years of experience and is one of the leading doctors at QuickMD.

Michael Ashley: Michael Ashley is a contributing writer for QuickMD and the author of more than 30 books, including four bestsellers. A former Disney screenwriter and current professional speaker, he is also a columnist with Forbes and Entrepreneur, covering medical applications of AI and Big Data. Beyond contributing to these publications, Michael has written for the HuffPostFast Company, the IEEE, the United Nations' ITU News, the Orange County Business JournalThe California Business JournalNewsbase, and the Orange County Register. He has also been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Fox Sports, and KTLA.

 

[1] https://drugabusestatistics.org/opioid-epidemic/

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

[3] https://www.npr.org/2021/07/14/1016029270/drug-overdoses-killed-a-record-number-of-americans-in-2020-jumping-by-nearly-30

[4] https://drleeds.com/what-does-suboxone-do/

[5] https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/opioid-crisis-statistics/index.html

[6] https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R45240/4

[7] https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/information-about-medication-assisted-treatment-mat

[8] https://www.drugs.com/schedule-2-drugs.html

[9] https://www.drugs.com/suboxone.html

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