Dr Frank James: Working to Increase Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

We need to educate both the public and providers on medication-assisted treatments and understand that it is not substituting one drug for another, said Frank James, MD, JD, of American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Transcript (slightly modified)

How is ASAM working to increase access to medication-assisted treatment?

The first thing is to educate everybody. We know that medication-assisted treatments work. The World Health Organization (WHO), NIDA, SAMHSA, and ASAM have all said that medication-assisted treatment is the standard of care. Just like any other disease process, we need to follow the standard of care. We need to base our treatments on evidence, on research.

So first, educate the public that medication-assisted treatments are not substituting one problem for another. When I was in my clinic, I came across that same bias in the community that if you’re on medicated-assisted treatment, you’re not sober or abstinent; you’re still taking a drug that you can get addicted to. I would say to people like that, “Well, people that were in medication-assisted treatments with me got their lives back, got their kids back, they weren’t going back to jail, and they were staying out of higher levels of care.” People who were on heroin weren’t doing that. They were dying, they’re going back to jail, they’re in an out of hospitals; so, we are not substituting one drug for another. We’re actually giving treatments that are evidence based and actually giving us the outcomes that we want.

Then we have to educate providers. It’s not something that most people are used to prescribing, and there are prescribing practices that we have to make sure people do follow. You don’t have to be an addiction specialist to prescribe medication-assisted treatments, but you have to understand where does that fit in the toolbox of things that we have to treat addiction. It’s not just the medicine that going to cure somebody or get the results they want. It’s collaborating with other providers, community supports, making sure they make their medical appointments. That is one tool that we use for addiction and it’s an important tool.

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