The Partnership at Drugfree.org, a national nonprofit working to find evidence-based solutions to adolescent substance use, today launched a comprehensive new digital resource that helps parents better understand the potential life-saving benefits of medication-assisted treatment. The advanced online tool is comprised of videos, testimonials and an e-book to help parents make an informed choice when they are looking for treatment options to help a teen or young adult recover from an addiction to prescription pain medications, heroin or other opiates.
Prescription (Rx) drug abuse continues to be one of the nation’s most concerning drug problems and one that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention classifies as “an epidemic.” Abuse of Rx medicines, and abuse of long-acting prescription opioids in particular, remains at unacceptably high levels among teens and young adults across the country.
In 2012, nearly one million Americans, ages 12-25, were abusing or dependent on prescription pain relievers (primarily) or heroin. Many of these individuals, or their families, are unaware that medication assisted treatment can be a powerful tool in achieving sustained recovery from opioid addiction – and especially in avoiding the drift from pain reliever addiction into heroin use that the CDC has recently documented.
With heroin use in the U.S. on the rise, and overdose deaths due to prescription and illegal opiates at record levels, it is essential that those struggling with opioid addiction, their parents, families and healthcare providers, be made aware of the availability of these potentially lifesaving medications.
“Abuse of prescription pain products is arguably the most urgent public health issue facing families today, and we’re particularly concerned because this behavior frequently starts in adolescence – when 90 percent of all addictions begin. Unfortunately, too many young people who abuse prescription pain medicines are progressing to street heroin as pills become harder to obtain or tamper with,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. “As The Partnership advocates for better, more available adolescent treatment, we must help parents understand that while there is no one treatment that’s right for every child, medication-assisted treatment should be considered in their decision-making process.”
“Opioid addiction and overdoses affect increasing numbers of Americans and are now among the biggest public health problems of our time, said Dr. Hillary Kunins, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use – Prevention Care and Treatment, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Medication-assisted treatment is highly effective in treating opioid addiction, and preventing overdoses.”
What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?
The Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs to treat opioid addiction: methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. When used as detoxification medications, methadone and buprenorphine can reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids. When used as maintenance medications, they suppress withdrawal and cravings and actively contribute to a reduction in nonmedical opioid use. Naltrexone is a maintenance medication and blocks the intense “high” effects that opioids are known to have in the user. These medications have undergone rigorous safety and potency checks, much like maintenance medicines for other diseases like hypertension or diabetes.
“Medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence is a science-based and proven-effective option for teens and young adults. It should be administered with age appropriate psychosocial therapy and drug testing,” said John Knight, MD, a leading pediatrician at Harvard Medical School specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of adolescent substance abuse and the Director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
He continues, “Unfortunately, it has been subject to controversy and stigma. Yet the neuroscience of addiction and cravings helps explain why, when properly used and overseen, medication-assisted treatment can be truly life saving for adolescents, young adults, and their families. I see it working all the time. When kids come into treatment, their lives are just chaotic. Parents are desperate – they don’t know what to do or where to turn. The most important thing is to bring stability into the situation, and the best way to do that is with medication.”
Multimedia Resource Breaks Down Complex Path to Addiction and Recovery for Families in Crisis
An integral part of taking a fresh look at the issue is the medication-assisted treatment e-book, which provides a detailed plan of action for getting treatment for a child or loved one, based in science, research and medicine. It helps inform parents and caregivers about medication-assisted treatment options, especially when many are not aware that medication can be an important part of successful recovery.
Added Pasierb, “Medication-assisted treatment is addressing an urgent need and can help treat prescription opioid addiction effectively. In much the same way that insulin in an effective tool in diabetes care, it establishes medicine as a legitimate component in achieving recovery. Families can, and should, insist that their treatment providers, doctors and therapists examine – or in some cases, rethink – their stance on these potentially life-saving medications.
The new multimedia resource, located at drugfree.org, was also developed in collaboration with leading clinicians in the field of treating substance abuse, including Dr. Edwin A. Salsitz, Medical Director, Office-Based Opioid Therapy at Beth Israel Medical Center; Dr. Herbert Kleber and Dr. Stephen Donovan of the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University; and Dr. Josh Hersh, Suboxone Certified Physician, Staff Psychiatrist at Miami University Student Counseling.
Addressing methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone and the characteristics specific to each, as well as the appropriateness of each medication in the treatment of older teens and young adults, it also features videos of doctors, parents and their teen or young adults, who have first-hand experience with medication assisted-treatment.
“While different options work for different people, for us, medication-assisted treatment saved our daughter’s life and gave us our daughter back,” said Carol Allen, a mom who utilized the new resource from The Partnership to find help for her daughter’s addiction. “It allowed her to stop thinking constantly about the drugs she was abusing and helped her focus on returning to a healthy lifestyle. Together with the love and support from her family, my daughter is now living a productive life.”
This resource was made possible through an unrestricted grant from Reckitt Benckiser. To learn more about medication-assisted treatment options, visit www.drugfree.org/medication-assisted-treatment.