The drug overdose deaths surged during the coronavirus pandemic with an increase in drug addiction cases. Most people disconnected from their friends and family during the early months of the pandemic. Also, the lack of activities during the strict lockdowns plunged many people into mental health disorders.
With the rise in drug overdose cases, many experts are trying to make addiction medicines more accessible to those who suffer from this condition. Recently, researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University conducted a study that suggests easing the access to addiction treatment.
The review appeared recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
According to the research team, access to the addiction medication called methadone through office visits can reduce the number of cases. Currently, this medication is only available through special clinics and not as widely accessible.
This study was led by Professor Dennis McCarty from the OHSU School of Medicine. Dr. McCarty said that methadone is a highly regulated medicine for addiction in the US. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration approves three medications for this purpose. These include buprenorphine, naltrexone, and methadone. Methadone is the highest regulated treatment out of the three.
This medication acts on the same portions of the brain as any prescription opioid and heroin. It inhibits the symptoms of opioid withdrawal and helps those with a problem of a drug overdose.
The federal regulation established back in 1971 requires the administration of methadone only through specialized clinics and opioid treatment programs certified by the federal government. These rules are to minimize the risk of overdose among those who show less tolerance towards the drug. Also, it inhibits the selling of this drug without any prescription.
The recent study addresses the need to revisit these federal regulations. According to the researchers behind this study, the wide availability of this drug in primary healthcare clinics will cut down the costs of transportation. Besides, it will allow easy access to those who are in need of this medication.
McCarty also observed that the patients who received this medication in an office-based setting responded better to the treatment. They also showed a better retention rate and satisfaction as compared to those patients who got this treatment in special clinics. However, this study had one limitation that it included only stable patients.
The study only included those participants with a stable condition and did not involve those who suffered from drug overdose issues. Therefore, it is still a question if this access will improve the condition of all patients or not.
McCarty said that the researchers do not know if it will work for everyone because nobody tried it yet. Most people stabilize themselves sooner than others due to their jobs and families. Hence, they do not fall prey to severe addiction or drug overdose problems.
Since drug addiction is a severe issue in the US, widespread access to addiction medication can lower the fatalities linked to this problem. It can also help provide help to those who do not have the means to undergo specialized treatments at opioid programs.