Suboxone and Methadone Maintenance: The New Standard
Federal agencies like SAMHSA officially endorse medication-assisted therapies such as suboxone and methadone maintenance for opiate addiction.
In fact, agencies like SAMHSA, Medicaid, and the National Institutes of Health have spent billions of dollars in funding for suboxone and methadone maintenance programs. This is in response to the opioid crisis.
Research shows that these medications can reduce cravings and some of the impacts of drugs. For example, patients on these medications may be less likely to overdose, since they are using prescription drugs rather than heroin bought on the street.
But are these medications safe? Are they the best option? Some argue that they are not addictive, while others have a different perspective.
What SAMHSA is Saying
Every year, SAMHSA (and other agencies) provide large sums of money to fund treatment in each state. For 2020 and 2021, these grants strongly encourage states to use the money to fund suboxone and methadone maintenance, or MAT programs, in treatment. However, many treatment programs in the U.S. offer only abstinence-based treatment. SAMHSA states that instead, these patients should have the option to have FDA approved medications like suboxone and methadone.
It’s important to remember that these are recommendations. When a state is awarded a federal grant, it’s still up to them to spend it how they want. In Florida, for example, no one is required to provide suboxone or methadone maintenance.
Still, if so many federal agencies support it, is it worth considering MAT?
The Pros and Cons of MAT in Treatment
If a national agency like SAMHSA is encouraging states to use MAT to treat opioid addiction, are state-funded rehabs going to medicate all their patients? Should they?
It’s not a simple “yes or no” answer.
For one thing, there are other options for MAT. For example, some patients are treated with Vivitrol or Naltrexone. These medications block cravings for opiates, but they aren’t habit-forming. Since suboxone and methadone can be addictive, these drugs may be a better option.
Detox and long-term maintenance programs usually offer suboxone or methadone. There are some benefits to this. For example, someone on suboxone may not need to inject heroin to get their fix. This reduces risks of infection with HIV or hepatitis. However, these drugs are extremely addictive. It is possible to abuse suboxone and methadone, and many people become just as addicted to these drugs as they were to heroin or painkillers.
While the government advocates for suboxone and methadone to be available, they are not demanding widespread use. They’re encouraging states and treatment centers to embrace what science has shown for some time – that, in certain cases, medication can have a positive impact on an individual’s recovery. Fortunately, there are options far less addictive that suboxone and methadone. Patients can find-long term recovery with help, in the beginning, from anti-craving drugs.
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