During the Obama administration, opioid use spread like wildfire particularly in the Midwest and its rural areas. There was a general lack of recognition of the seriousness of the problem for years.
A newly released federally funded study concluded that more than 80 percent of the two million people addicted to opioids are not being treated with one of the three medications which would help them go into remission or prevent them from overdosing. The three drugs have been approved by FDA and some date back to 1972.
The three medications were found to effectively treat opioid use disorder – methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. All three drugs work by reducing the cravings for drugs like OxyContin or heroin. Patients who take one of these three drugs are fifty percent less likely to die and they are more likely to remain in treatment. They also tend to have better long-term health.
Not part of the study was the issue that individuals taking these less potent drugs are more capable of holding down jobs and are less apt to commit theft to provide for their drug habits.
France began letting healthcare officials use buprenorphine and overdose deaths dropped by 80 percent in four years with a tenfold increase in people in treatment. In the U.S., many drug courts and the majority of residential treatment programs prevent using this drug or the other two.
Instead of wasting billions on the opioid crisis (even more if lost wages, welfare for broken families, funerals of the deceased, etc.) the U.S. should follow France’s lead and permit the use of these three drugs by trained health professionals.