Can medication treat opioid addiction?
I would like to bring to your attention difficulties I see in the future of persons addicted to opioids.
For more than 20 years I have operated long-term treatment facilities for nonviolent felony offenders. These facilities have always operated as abstinencebased treatment programs. The theory being that one must stop using drugs of any type to be successful.
Now there is a movement about for medication assisted treatment. The theory entails the use of drugs such as Suboxone to stem the craving for opioids.
Suboxone, and similar drugs, are manufactured by pharmaceutical houses, or big pharma. To understand the interest of big pharma one should research pharmaceutical companies and see the amount of money that is generated by the sale of drugs.
According to information I found on the internet, the highest paid pharmaceutical CEO only made $47.5 million last year. In addition, big pharma spent more than $246 million last year lobbying Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Recently the media has chastised U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Brentwood Republican, for sponsoring a bill that limited the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to control the flow of opioids in this country. They point out that she received $120,000 in campaign contributions from big pharma. Also, the media points out that Blackburn sponsored the bill. That is true. They say that she did not do enough research before she sponsored the bill.
The bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously; does that mean that all members of congress did no research?
I would point out that Blackburn has always been a supporter of treatment for addiction.
The theory of medication assisted treatment seems to be that by using drugs such as Suboxone one can eventually be weaned off opioids. In other words, they want to get you off one drug by taking another drug.
How long does medication assisted treatment take, and what is the cost? Estimates seem to start at $500 per individual per month. If an individual cannot afford this is it going to be passed on to taxpayers?
The ideal situation would be a controlled study to examine the effectiveness of medication assisted training compared to abstinence-based treatment. However, I doubt that such a study will ever be done.
I am not an expert on addiction, and I do not intend to imply that I know the answer to this opioid-addiction epidemic.
I encourage you to research Suboxone or other similar drugs and their long-term effectiveness on addiction.
You will find articles espousing both types of treatment as the ultimate answer.
Study them carefully, but keep in mind the fact the pharmaceutical manufacturers have a huge financial stake in medication assisted treatment.
Judge Seth Norman is the judge of Division IV Criminal Court in Davidson County.
Judge Seth Norman Guest columnist