Last year drug overdose killed over 72,000 Americans according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 49,000 of these deaths were directly attributable to opioids like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, deaths from which have increased over 540 percent in the past five years. At the same time, that National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that nearly 54 million Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes at some point in their lives and that 25 percent of those who abuse prescriptions before the age of 13 wind up battling some sort of chemical dependency issue later on in life. As if we needed definitive confirmation, and what we saw going on in our families and communities wasn’t confirmation enough, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that painkillers are overwhelmingly the most commonly abused type of prescription drug.
ASAM for MAT
One of the more effective tools in the battle against these enduring substance abuse threats is the use of FDA-approved medications to help users curtail their cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Despite the clear success of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in the treatment of opioid-use disorder, many treatment centers are still reluctant to offer this service to eligible patients. To date, only about half of all operating private-sector treatment facilities offer medications for opioid use disorder with only a third of eligible patients actually receiving them. Thanks to a new pilot program from the American Society of Addiction Medicine that gives treatment centers a grade based on a set of research-backed criteria designed to ensure patient health and safety, this trend might change. Among these criteria is the deployment of medication-assisted treatment.
The criteria specifically include providing increased accessibility to naltrexone (commonly known as Vivitrol®), an extended-release monthly injection to help mitigate cravings. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that works by binding to opioid receptors to produce comfortable and pleasurable feelings, but do not cause the flow of dopamine that so often leads to tolerance, dependency and addiction. In order to become certified by the ASAM, treatment programs will need to go through the process of submitting applications to CARF International and allowing themselves to be reviewed. CARF will then independently perform the certification, which includes an on-site visit to the facility. Each program certification lasts up to three years, after which the program will need to reapply.
The Present and Future of Addiction Care
The United States isn’t the first country to adopt certification standards that push for the proliferation of MAT. In fact, in many countries like Canada, access to MAT medications has been normalized to the point that many patients are able to pick up medicines like methadone at their local pharmacies. The ASAM states that “The importance of certification to the future of addiction medicine cannot be overstated.” The ASAM and CARF hope that the introduction of this new certification program will benefit patients and their families, health professionals, and insurers, with the necessary clarity to identify discrete levels of care for persons with substance use disorders.
Leading the Way on Medication-Assisted Treatment
For Recovery Unplugged, the responsible, proactive and discreet dispensation of naltrexone is nothing new. As a trusted and reputable Vivitrol provider with years of expertise, we welcome and embrace the ASAM’s new criteria and recommendations for dispensation of the drug. It is our sincere hope that these new recommendations will further integrate naltrexone into the treatment landscape, thereby helping more opioid use disorder sufferers successfully battle back against their addictions. The pervasive and systemic issue of opioid addiction demands dynamic, science-backed solutions: the controlled and responsible use of MAT is a clear step in that direction.