Related to another project I am working on, I was researching medication assisted treatment for opiate addiction today and came across some interesting points. Most importantly, I think, medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opiate addiction has been demonstrated to save lives, save money and positively impact society. The efficacy and effects of MAT beyond the individual patient have been studied extensively for 30 years.
This treatment is effective for opiates like heroin as well as prescription opiates like oxycontin and hydrocodone. The major problem seems to be that there is a limited supply of quality programs and so it has not reached its full potential.
All of the society benefits of MAT seem obvious when you look at them and there are studies to back up the observations (a nod to the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence). Participation in MAT is associated with a decrease in use of all illict drugs by that individual. MAT results in a dramatic decrease in crime committed by the individual in treatment. Fewer of the individuals in treatment become infected with HIV (yes, it is still out there, although we seldom hear about it anymore). The lives of the individuals in treatment improve, to their own benefit and to the benefit of society. Their family and other social relationships improve. In addition, their rate of successful employment increases. In addition to positive effects on the social fabric, all of these things demonstrate a great return on investment in MAT, if you want to boil it down to economics.
Most importantly, individual lives are saved by MAT and their quality of life (and the quality of society) improves. I have had some questions after our investigation aided the DEA and IL Dept. of Professional Regulation in stopping the practice of a few physicians, where could folks hooked by those practices get treatment. I, sadly, had to say I don’t know. The number of programs are limited (a local one has a 1 year waiting list), even into Chicago.