Don’t believe the hype


About that Huffington Post article covering Obama’s addiction speech a few weeks ago.

A Huffington Post investigation published in January found that the treatment industry overwhelmingly resists a medication-assisted model based on decades-old beliefs about sobriety that have been passed down by those in recovery, but have never been rigorously tested. Suboxone is the number 39 drug in the US and has sales of more than $1.4 billion.* Federal surveys find that opioid replacement treatment (one form of medication assisted treatment) admissions accounted for 27.8%** of all admissions. [Not 27.8% of opioid addiction admissions. 27.8% of ALL addiction treatment admissions.]

More on the Huffington Post’s drug policy reporting here.

* note that this is only for the brand Suboxone and does not include Subutex and generics.

** This post originally reported that maintenance admissions accounted for 26%. It was 26% in 2009. More recent numbers are now available and the updated reports says that maintenance admission accounted for 27.8% of all admission in 2011.

4 thoughts on “Don’t believe the hype

  1. Isn’t it great to see the country waking up to the fact that so many people are dying behind opiate addiction. I know that your intent is different, but wouldn’t a live addict on bupe be better than the thousands in the ground with opiates still in their systems. Science will trump bias and greed as we move forward into a new era of treatment. I hope that you stop, long enough, to see that the price is just too high to stick to old ideas that worked great for alcohol and meth. I have directed abstinence based programs for over thirty five years and still do, however, we use buprenorphine to enhance our chances of patient retention and successful outcome. I celebrate 35 years of recovery in five days, by the grace of God, and ten of those were with the assistance of buprenorphine. It allows me to continue my recovery groups, scuba dive, compete on horses, play softball and fish the Sea of Cortez. All because it removed my post acute withdrawal, serves as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-cortisol. At 66, I have never been healthier and my spirituality is as strong as the day I surrendered Dec. 3, 1980. Trust me there are many others in recovery who share my experience. Thanks for hosting the blog.


    1. I’m happy for your success and wish you continued success.

      This post was nothing but a couple of data points to show, that for a “treatment industry [that] overwhelmingly resists a medication-assisted model”, they’re sure prescribing a lot of maintenance meds.

      The suggestion that MAT isn’t accessible just isn’t true for most people.


  2. Jason- I read your earlier share, essentially, quoting from some concepts developed by Bill White and, subsequently, felt humbled to have not reviewed more, prior to expressing my own views.
    Thank you for your good wishes and for creating this forum for others to express and learn.
    I agree that the industry has, apparently, begun to shift its focus from abstinence based to patient centered (including MAT). When we began to offer buprenorphine, as an option, to patients, our colleagues were quoted as referring to us as “Pill recovery” and “an opiate maintenance program”. The rancor was palpable but few chose to discuss the evidence. At that time, 2004, we had a hard time finding physicians bupe certified and found no inpatient programs that would stabilize our patients (for various psychiatric, medical or dual withdrawal issues) and, seamlessly, return them to us on bupe for continued individualized care. We, still, find this today, although the numbers are changing. After being one of eight “affiliate partners” of the Betty Ford Center through the 90’s, we found ourselves very separate in our beliefs, as it related to opiates. Fortunately, we have, now, reclaimed that relationship with a program that we have always respected. Even more, now, with their willingness to have the courage to accept MAT.
    There is a lot of buprenorphine being prescribed, because there is an enormous demand. I, only, wish that all the patients that want it could readily access it. With President Obama’s recent dictate to his cabinet, I suspect that we will be seeing many more patients being steered towards MAT and, those who refuse to accept a patient’s right to choose, may choose to leave the field. I have seen too many patients who have, already died after leaving 30,60, or 90 day programs. A recent study indicated that the rate of overdose death was 75 times that of prisoners being released from prison and even greater than users staying on the streets. There are obvious reasons related to tolerance reduction but that is speculation.
    Again, thank you for your openness and continued call for patient centered treatment, allowing the patient to “run their own program”. I used to cringe when I heard staff use that term in a derogatory manner. Who’s program would they run. It is our job to give them the very best information and the arena that allows for a safe exploration of the emotional baggage that they have brought to the treatment process. The result is hope and hope turns to change when surrender and personal responsibility mesh to create the magic that is found in so many rooms across the country.


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