Are “old school” Ideologies Hurting Opioid Treatment and Recovery?
In a very powerful and personal Op-Ed in the New York Times entitled “The Wrong Way to Treat Opioid Addiction” author Maia Szalavitz emphasizes that the single biggest obstacle in the overdose epidemic and failed recovery practices in our society is the rejection of proven addiction medications. Szalavitz states “Rather than defining addiction as destructive, compulsive behavior, this ideology focuses on physical dependence. If you need a drug to avoid being physically ill, you are considered addicted. So Prozac would be considered addictive, but not cocaine, because quitting Prozac abruptly can cause flulike symptoms while stopping cocaine doesn’t, even though it elicits extreme craving.”
On the personal side of this article, Ms. Szalavitz provides the backstory to why there is this disconnect with the ideology of treatment and recovery. She states “Unfortunately, his new counselors insisted that continuing his buprenorphine, though it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, was just as bad as using heroin, according to his wife, Deborah. He wasn’t even allowed to start therapy until he’d been abstinent for several weeks. Stressed by withdrawal, he went to a third center. It, too, banned medication. Within a week of entering the program, he was dead from a heroin overdose. He was 35.
To reinforce the significance of this problem, according to an article in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog entitled “CDC releases grim new opioid overdose figures: ‘We’re talking about more than an exponential increase” by Christopher Ingraham, 42,000+ Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2016 which is an estimated 28% increase from 2015. In addition, overdose related deaths connected to fentanyl and other synthetic opiates went from 9,580 in 2015 to 19,413 in 2016.
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