In Drug Epidemic, Resistance to Medication Costs Lives

4 Feb

 

This story has been updated. More people died from opioid overdoses than from homicides. Almost as many died from opioid overdoses as from auto accidents.

Dr. Marvin Seppala wrote a book on conquering drug addiction with counseling and group therapy.

The spiritual, abstinence-based strategy pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous helped him overcome his own alcohol and cocaine addiction when he was 19. As medical director of Minnesota’s fabled Hazelden clinic, he watched it work for patients.

He believed in it — and then he changed his mind.

In 2007, Seppala began working at Beyond Addictions, a now defunct treatment center in Beaverton, Oregon. Instead of relying solely on counseling, the center gave its patients a relatively new medication, buprenorphine, to relieve their drug cravings.

Back in Minnesota, his patients had been bailing out of treatment to use illicit drugs again. In Oregon his patients on buprenorphine weren’t relapsing or overdosing — they reported feeling “normal” again.

Nearly a decade later, doctors and brain researchers agree that medications such as buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are the most effective anti-addiction weapons available. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of U.S. clinics and treatment centers still do not offer the medicines. Many refuse to admit people who are taking them.

The result is that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans are dying unnecessarily, victims of an epidemic that killed more than 28,000 people in 2014 — more than homicides and almost as many as auto accidents.

The research is unassailable: Staying in recovery and avoiding relapse for at least a year is more than twice as likely with medications as without them. Medications also lower the risk of a fatal overdose.

Pew Trusts, link to article here.

H/t to Cathy Brennan.

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