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Health officials push for better access to MAT services

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Top officials from U.S. health agencies have coauthored a report highlighting the need for greater access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addictions. Prescription opioids account for the most alarming drug overdose rates in the U.S., exceeding those of heroin and cocaine combined.

The authors report that in 2010 there were 16,651 overdose deaths from prescription opioids. Those are scary numbers that flag a need for improved treatment strategies—which the authors believe lie in expanding MAT access. “When prescribed and monitored properly, MATs have proved effective in helping patients recover,” they write.

Despite the confidence health officials may have in MATs, they haven’t yet been embraced across the board. Less than half of private-sector programs have adopted MATs, the authors report.

Why hasn’t MAT been universally integrated into addiction services? The authors list a number of barriers, including a shortage of professional training in MAT, negative stigma about the use of medication to treat addiction, and insurance regulations that place limits on the prescription of MAT drugs. As for the stigma, many programs still hold to an abstinence-only treatment philosophy, and some think that the use of methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone just replaces one drug for another.

The authors are hopeful that under the Affordable Care Act, wider access to addiction treatment will begin to produce more patients with good outcomes under MAT, strengthening the case for its adoption by more treatment programs. The agencies sponsoring the report, including NIDA, the CDC, SAMHSA, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are each pursuing strategies to improve the implementation of MAT in addiction treatment services.

Stepworks recognizes that medication-assisted treatment can be a huge factor in recovery success. If you’re struggling with a prescription opioid or heroin addiction, Stepworks’ medical professionals can evaluate whether you would benefit from a treatment program featuring MAT.