Feds call for more medication-based opioid treatment: 7 takeaways

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As the Trump administration works to combat opioid abuse, which includes a plan to implement the death penalty for drug traffickers, one of the administration's proposals involves expanding the use of medication to treat addiction, according to report from The Washington Post.

Here are seven takeaways from the report.

1. In March, President Trump declared "we're making medically assisted treatment more available and affordable," even as Congress was working to approve $1 billion for a new treatment grant program for opioids as part of the federal spending bill.

2. Not offering medication to treat opioid addiction is like "trying to treat an infection without antibiotics," HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the National Governors Association earlier this year.

3. Although experts have long said medication-assisted treatment should be the standard of care for opioid-addicted patients, acceptance for this treatment falls behind due to the barriers related to cost and government regulations. For example, several of the treatment drugs are opioids and experts have not reached a consensus on how long patients should stay in treatment.

4. During President Obama's last year in office, Congress approved $1 billion for state opioid crisis grants. Of that $1 billion, $500 million was to be released last year and the other $500 million this year, according to the report. The 2018 spending bill provides another $1 billion. States were required to show their opioid programs are based on clinical evidence. As a result, medication-assisted treatment received a significant funding boost. States are awarded opioid crisis grants based on a number of factors, including overdose deaths and the number of patients who are unable to find treatment.

5. "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, which advocates for mental health and addiction treatment.

6. Deborah Richter, MD, a Vermont-based physician, told The Washington Post medications have helped her patients, especially when these treatments are combined with counseling. "People got back to what they were before the addiction seized them," she said. As a physician, "it was on a personal level so rewarding to save other mothers' children," Dr. Richter added.

7. However, those skeptical about the government's emphasis on medication-assisted treatment said it should not be looked at as a "cure-all." Jonathan Goyer, manager of the Pawtucket, R.I.-based Anchor recovery program, said he sees a number of patients who wish to be free of drugs altogether and do not want to be prescribed medications. "We should be increasing medication-assisted treatment," Mr. Goyer told The Washington Post. "But we should also be increasing everything else."

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