“Addiction Treatment Services Evolve North of the Border”
New Hope for Treatment Resistant Heroin Addicts
The Providence Crosstown Clinic in British Columbia, Canada has taken the next step in addiction treatment services. This next step comes in the form of a medical grade of heroin called diacetylmorphine. Doctors at the Crosstown Clinic are injecting a select group of heroin addicts with it several times day, in order to prevent abuse of the street version.
With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leading the charge, the Canadian government has loosened the reins on addiction treatment services over the past few years. The use of diacetylmorphine is one of the fruits of this progressive stance. It also flies in the face of conventional wisdom, especially the stigma it attaches to heroin use.
Research seems to support the use of diacetylmorphine, at least as a last resort for addicts who don’t respond to more conventional treatments. As a group, diacetylmorphine patients have shown a marked improvement in their physical and mental health since starting this replacement treatment. They are also much less likely to commit crimes that are typically related to heroin use.
How it Works
There are stringent requirements for this new addiction treatment service. It is only open to addicts who have used heroin for more than five years. The diacetylmorphine plan is also restricted to addicts for whom drugs like Suboxone and methadone have failed multiple times. Lastly, patients must also have physical and mental complications that are due to their heroin use.
Once approved, patients must report to the clinic up to three times a day to receive their injections. This is of course a strain for those who wish to continue working or take care of their family, but it is still far better than the alternative. Not surprisingly, the dropout rate has been very low.
Despite resistance from conservative quarters, the physicians at The Crosstown Clinic insist that the treatment is working. They claim that access to diacetylmorphine is a human right of every Canadian citizen, along with other aspects of health care. We can only hope that this progressive fervor someday finds its way south.
Medication Assisted Treatment Defined
Medication assisted treatment, or MAT, is the use of legal drugs in the treatment of addiction. It is usually used to treat opioid dependence, but there are drugs to treat the symptoms of alcoholism as well. In both cases, the drugs are used
facilitate recovery by helping to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction includes drugs like methadone, Suboxone, Vivitrol, and Naloxone. The medications for alcoholism include Antabuse and Campral. These drugs all have one important thing in common. They treat addiction as a disease, by acting directly on the parts of the brain involved in addiction.
Hope in Pill Form for Thousands
Research asserts that medication assisted treatment is highly effective. It reduces the frequency of relapse and overdose, both during and after treatment. medication assisted treatment has proven especially beneficial in the treatment of long term opioid use. This includes many addicts who had failed to stop using for decades.
And medication assisted treatment could help thousands more, but only if certain obstacles to its use are removed. Some of these obstacles are logistical or economic in nature, namely the cost of the drugs and the dearth of provider outside metropolitan areas. The first and most difficult obstacles, however, are philosophical ones.
Strangely enough, much of the resistance to medication assisted treatment has come from within the treatment community itself. Many providers believe these drugs violate the principles suggested by the abstinence-12 stop model they’ve used for decades. Unfortunately, this belief runs counter to proven empirical facts. It also dovetails with the stigma attached to addiction in our wider culture.
Medication Assisted Treatment and Stigma
The idea that addiction is a moral issue is not just inaccurate – it’s damaging and often lethal. Only by eliminating this resistance can we as a culture acknowledge what professionals have understood for decades – that addiction is a disease with a physical basis in brain chemistry. Once the internal resistance has faded, the logistical and economic obstacles to medication assisted treatment will begin the disappear as well.