In preparation for National Recovery Month this year, we want to review notable events that have affected addiction treatment in the US since last September. Much awareness has been drawn to the problems as well as the solutions available to those struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Strides were made by the many social initiatives, studies, law suits, and legislature approvals we saw this past year and we hope that all this work put towards improving addiction prevention and treatment will continue for years to come.
Federal Government Recognizes the Problem
Directly following National Recovery Month 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the opioid crisis the US has been facing was officially a public health emergency. This classification brought the severity of the problem in to the light and showed that the government is truly concerned about the epidemic that has been claiming so many innocent lives.
We also saw a shift in the government’s view of addiction after the White House recommended all 93 federal district courts to implement their own drug court programs. These types of diversion programs lead more addicts to treatment as opposed to incarceration, so they have a higher chance of addressing the underlying problem, getting better, and leaving their lives of crime in the past.
President Trump was invited to New Hampshire where he gave a 30+ minute speech about new plans for combatting the opioid crisis. Although his speech was very emotionally driven, inviting families of those lost to overdoses to the stage, and showed that this administration is concerned about addiction, no plan of action was provided.
State Government Support
Many states have been taking different approaches to addressing addiction in their own backyards. Florida, Michigan, and Tennessee passed legislature that limited the amount of opioids that can be prescribed to patients for acute pain. The number of pills available to the patients differs by state, but the goal across the board is to limit access to and abuse of opioid painkillers.
In New York City, supervised injection sites are in the approval process. These centers would be safe places where people using IV drugs can receive clean needles, be monitored by nurses, and be revived in the case of overdose; resources for addiction treatment would be made available and heavily encouraged to those utilizing the safe injection sites. NY Senator Chuck Schumer was also urging the president to sign a bill that would fund portable screening devices for Customs and Border Protection that detect fentanyl. Funding for this technology could stop fentanyl from entering the US or moving between states and potentially trace the sources.
The last year has provided us with many great scientific and technological feats in the world of addiction treatment and prevention! The Walter Reed Army Research Institute gained great attention with their published research about an experimental heroin addiction vaccination. Another study was published this year that linked a specific gene to alcohol addiction in rats which will hopefully be taken to human clinical trials in the near future. These potential products and data could lead to whole new and effective methods of addiction prevention.
In regard to addiction treatment, for the first time, a non-opioid drug, Lucemyra, was developed and used to treat opioid withdrawal. Also, the FDA gave certain pharmaceutical companies the green light to create more affordable, generic versions of the drug Suboxone, commonly used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opiate addicts. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published guidelines of best practice for MAT which is now taking a comprehensive approach to this type of therapy, not just swapping one opiate for another.