Many Addiction Centers Won’t Use Medication-Assisted Treatment

therapist listening to her patient

According to US News, the majority of drug and alcohol treatment centers in the United States don’t offer three standard Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) services, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends and encourages them for people with opioid use disorder.

Only six percent of treatment centers in the United States offered all three medications, while about thirty-six percent of treatment centers offer one MAT drug for opioid users.

MAT drugs help users curb their desire to use, or help with other side-effects and withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone are the only drugs approved by the FDA for long-term treatment of opioid use disorder. The drugs are viewed as safe and effective by regulators and researchers, but often there is a stigma attached to the medications. Many treatment centers prefer to use traditional therapy and 12-step meetings rather than provide clinical services.

Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, a professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and lead study author, and his team analyzed 10,000 surveys from people who attended outpatient centers conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) between 2007 and 2016.

The government is hoping to change the way that treatment centers help their clients.

“The Trump Administration is pursuing every opportunity to address our country’s opioid epidemic and support patients struggling with opioid use disorder. This work at HHS includes placing a special priority on ensuring access to a full range of safe and effective options for medication-assisted treatment,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar last August, when recommending MAT as a new standard of drug and alcohol treatment. “The evidence is clear: medication-assisted treatment works, and it is a key piece of defeating the drug crisis facing our country. The FDA’s new guidelines have the potential to bring new medications to market that are more closely tailored to patient needs and help give Americans facing addiction a better chance at recovery.”

However, progress is still being made as the treatment profession changes and adapts to the new climate that combines science with traditional treatment, such as talk therapy and 12-step programs. Addition federal funding for research and training for people currently in the industry would probably speed the process.

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