Road to recovery: Treating drug addiction with drugs

Addiction specialists say there are many productive citizens who secretly take drugs to treat drug addiction, yet these people largely keep quiet amid widespread unease with the notion.

Addiction specialists say there are many productive citizens who secretly take drugs to treat drug addiction, yet these people largely keep quiet amid widespread unease with the notion. Extensive research shows that people addicted to opioids who take properly prescribed buprenorphine or methadone are much less likely to relapse and overdose than those who try to recover without medications. Despite that, only about one-third of people in addiction treatment take medications, according to a national estimate. Regulations that restrict access are part of the problem. Doctors must go through 8 hours of training before they can prescribe buprenorphine, and those who do take the course are legally limited in how many patients they can treat. Other people question the singular focus on a pharmaceutical fix, noting that methadone and buprenorphine create physical dependence and patients have trouble getting off the drugs. It is a challenge, say addiction specialists, who note that many treatment centers and recovery homes continue to discourage their clients from taking medication. Still, prescriptions for buprenorphine are on the rise. The Urban Institute found that medication-assisted treatment provided to Medicaid patients increased 19% from 2011 to 2017, while some states, such as Massachusetts, have made increasing access to anti-addiction medications a priority.