Study Finds Drug-Assisted Treatment is More Effective Than Detox
A crisis that kills 91 Americans every day and controls the lives of nearly 2.6 million, the opioid epidemic is very much out of control. There remains a huge gap between what is known about treatment and how substance use disorder is treated in the U.S.
Addiction researchers now widely agree that a combination of medically assisted treatment (MAT)—such as using buprenorphine and methadone to wean patients off opioids—and abstinence-based programs are the most effective in treating substance use disorder. As opposed to the most common form of treatment—a medically supervised detox program—which has limited success and costs significantly.
In addition to saving tax payers more than $70,000 per person enrolled in MAT, perhaps the best outcome of the study is that patients were more likely to gain longer and improved quality of life.
The LA Times reported that California has the highest number of people in the nation suffering with an addiction to opiates. Of that population, close to 80% didn’t get any treatment at all in 2015. Of those who were fortunate to get treatment, less than half received the drug-assisted treatment which researchers now widely agree upon as the most likely route to abstinence.
Yet, the regulations to deal with opiate addiction in California is in favor of detox instead of MAT. Those with public insurance are required by the state to prove that they have already tried detox in at least twice before it would consider enrolment in MAT.
A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, highlighted public policies that limit access to MAT don’t just disadvantage patients, they’re also costly to taxpayers who pay for the treatment. The study estimated that in just one year of MAT, those patients would save society during their lifetimes approximately $3.869 billion. They attribute this to be because of an increased likelihood of staying clean, lower future healthcare costs, decreased risk of HIV infection and treatment, and less involvement with the criminal justice system.
The senior author of the study, Bohdan Nosyk, is a health economist with British Columbia’s Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDs. His co-authors included addiction experts from UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Programs and the Veterans Affairs of Greater LA. Nosyk said, “We believe our findings really do represent the reality in California…The findings were really robust and, as new people come in, the savings will accumulate. So the numbers are conservative.”
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