FDA Investing Money in Medication Assisted Treatment
America’s opiate epidemic has been headline news for awhile now. Over 120 addicts are dying daily due to opiate related overdose. The addicts that didn’t die that day are being saved by first responders using Narcan, losing their jobs, loosing their homes and are struggling to find the resources they need to get off opiates. Resources are being put in place finally that can improve the chances that some of the 80% of addicts that are currently lost can find relief. The history of drug use and treatment of addiction in America shows one dark reality- poor people suffer while the rich and privileged receive most of the addiction services. New FDA efforts are aimed at changing this imbalance in addiction medicine.
For years now, the America campaign for drug prevention was “Just Say No”. This was coined by Nancy Reagan in the 1980’s. “Just say no” people are now conditioned to tell their kids and family members this. This slogan has made a bias against drug addicts that they have a decision to “just say no”, which is a fallacy. Most Americans cannot find treatment, they can’t afford treatment and traditional treatment fails most patients 90% of the time. This failure to find a sufficient treatment method that works for most people has perpetuated senseless suffering for millions addicted to opiates. For almost any disease doctors have multiple treatment options. When the first treatment method doesn’t work the doctor moves on to the next treatment plan in hopes that the patient will respond differently. When it comes to addiction treatments though a parent will send their child to the same rehab thirty times, this is insanity. Addicts who take medications like methadone or buprenorphine are told their “not sober” and are judged. This kind of thinking is a problem. If a cancer patient switched from chemotherapy to a medication, would society berate them? Or pray it works? Probably pray it works, like every loved one of every addict that goes to treatment, prays that this time… it works.
The attitude towards buprenorphine use will start changing though when more education is given to people and the success rates of buprenorphine start to positively affect middle America. Addiction specialist Dr. Andrew Kolodny agreed. “We already have effective medications for treating opioid addiction. Buprenorphine works. It’s the first-line treatment, but access is inadequate. Not enough doctors are prescribing it. Until we do a better job of improving access to the treatments we have, overdose deaths are likely to remain at historically high levels.” The government has increased the number of patients a suboxone doctor can prescribe to by 175 patients a month. This means instead of 100 patients 275 patients can be prescribed suboxone. In an effort to encourage new treatments for opioid addiction, the Food and Drug Administration plans to begin permitting pharmaceutical companies to sell medications that help temper cravings, even if they don’t fully stop addiction. The new head of health and human services Mr. Alex Azar said he would work to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and addiction therapy, and would not treat it as a moral failing.
More therapy and variety of therapies to treat drug addiction and alcoholism is what’s needed to combat this crisis. The opioid epidemic is considered the most unrelenting drug crisis in United States history. In 2016, roughly 64,000 people were killed by drug overdoses, including from prescription opioid painkillers and heroin. In comparison, more than 58,000 US soldiers died in the entire Vietnam War, nearly 55,000 Americans died of car crashes at the peak of such deaths in 1972, more than 43,000 died due to HIV/AIDS during that epidemic’s peak in 1995, and nearly 40,000 died of guns during the peak of those deaths in 1993. We need a solution now more than ever.