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Medication-Assisted Treatment Works for Opioid Addiction, But Isn’t Used Enough

Medication-Assisted Treatment Works for Opioid Addiction, But Isn’t Used Enough

posted by: Nicole Hovey date: Nov 04, 2019 category: Blog comments: Comments Off on Medication-Assisted Treatment Works for Opioid Addiction, But Isn’t Used Enough

While medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has been found effective for opioid addiction, new research also shows that it continues to be underused.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Works for Opioid Misuse and Addiction
The FDA has approved the drugs naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone for use in MAT. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), MAT has been shown to:

Improve patient survival
Help individuals stay in addiction treatment
Help reduce criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
Increase a patient’s ability to get and keep a job
Improve birth outcomes in pregnant women with substance use disorders

Recent Findings on MAT Underutilization

In the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers reported that MAT drugs are effective, but are not applied as frequently as they should be. Their findings were based on a review of data from the available medical literature about MAT.

The researchers, led by Tyler Oesterle, MD, medical director of Mayo Clinic Health System’s Fountain Centers drug and alcohol treatment programs, pointed out that each drug has strengths and weaknesses. Clinicians should weigh the risks and benefits of each drug for each patient suffering from an opioid use disorder.

Why MAT Is Underutilized
Despite its effectiveness, there are persistent barriers to widespread MAT use in the United States.

Critics of MAT often say that the technique simply substitutes one drug for another. However, MAT actually helps relieve withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings associated with opioid misuse. With MAT medications, patients have a safe, managed way to overcome opioid abuse.

Research indicates that, at the appropriate dose, MAT does not adversely affect a patient’s mental or physical functioning. This can help patients lead fulfilling, productive lives without opioid dependence.

However, this misinformation leads to stigma that may prevent people from getting the help they need through MAT. For example, many drug courts do not allow patients to be referred to this type of treatment for substance abuse.

Limited Access

Patients struggling with opioid misuse may not have access to an MAT provider. The three drugs used in MAT can only be dispensed through an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) certified by the SAMHSA and accredited by a SAMHSA-approved accrediting body.

Federal, state, and local regulations also limit the number of MAT providers. Practitioners must receive a waiver to practice opioid dependency treatment with approved medications, which requires an application and training process. Under the SUPPORT Act, non-physician practitioners have received greater flexibility in providing MAT, though this still requires them to receive a waiver and fulfill other requirements.

Treatment providers and behavioral health organizations also may lack the funding to begin prescribing MAT or launch an MAT program. One study from 2009-2010 found that many funding policies “are unsupportive of the implementation of MAT,” which limits availability.
The National Council offers a variety of resources for behavioral health and addiction treatment organizations and other healthcare providers that are considering incorporating MAT into their practices.

Serving Addiction Treatment and Behavioral Health Clients

Whether you offer MAT, talk therapy, or a combination of treatments for substance misuse, your EHR system should help, not hinder, your practice. Contact BestNotes today to get started with EHR and CRM solutions tailored to your specific needs.

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