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Washington State Debates Using Medications for Addiction Treatment

There has been much talk recently in the state of Washington about the opioid epidemic. A two-day summit was recently held with two main focuses as follows:

  • Reduction of legally purchased drugs
  • Medications in the treatment of opioid addiction

However equally important both topics are the questions surrounding the use of medications for treatment is gaining more attention.

A handful of people that work in law enforcement spoke about the importance of treating opioid addiction as a medical condition and it was their general consensus that the drugs should be removed from the shadows of society. They agreed that using medications has proven to reduce deaths and help people lead functional lives.

Much Debate About Using Medicationspill-1884775_1280

The debate over using medications to help addicts recover has been very contentious over the last two decades. Prescribing medications to opioid addicts is still the preferred method for treatment towards rehabilitation. Experts will agree that a person who has developed an opioid addiction should be treated like any other patient with a sickness.

Providing medications is often the first step in recovery as well as the first line of defense against an overdose. The goal is to restore a degree of normalcy to the daily life of the addict. Some notable medications for opioid addiction treatment are as follows:

  • Naloxone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Suboxone
  • Methadone

They use some medications like methadone to alleviate the pain of withdrawals and limit euphoria. This classification of drugs allows addicts to perform tasks as rudimentary as going to the store and as important as performing duties in the workplace. Otherwise while under the influence of opioids the addicts have difficulties with most normal activities.

Some medications are used to relieve immediate complications from opioids. This classification of drugs is used to prevent possible death and revive patients who have overdosed.

Various Medications Used:

  • Naloxone, has shown a reduction in overdose deaths by 6%
  • Buprenorphine, showed better than a 50% reduction in deaths
  • Suboxone, showed to alleviate dependence
  • Methadone, alleviates pain without the euphoria associated with opioids

Limited Access for Meds

In the state of Washington buprenorphine programs have reached full capacity and therefore have illustrated the need for improved access to medications, namely buprenorphine and methadone. It will take some very serious consideration by policy makers to provide more resources and solve this growing need.

Saving Lives with Naloxone

The importance of Naloxone in saving lives has been proven. When addicts have overdosed the administering of Naloxone is the difference between life and death. There is little argument surrounding it’s effectiveness and any doubt will come under scrutiny from the medical community.

There are some reasons to speculate about using medications to treat addiction. The most well known medication methadone relieves pain and is a detoxifier yet is habit forming and can be dangerous if used improperly. However, methadone has been the forerunner for a long time and it’s usefulness in helping addicts cope has been proven time and time again regardless of it’s adverse effects.

There are multiple approaches to recovery with different levels of effectiveness but the use of medications has been proven to be the most effective. These drugs have been shown to save lives and or allow the addict to maintain a degree of productivity in their daily lives.

Pennsylvania Gets Boost in Addiction Recovery Funding

united-states-1037186_1280The Health and Human Services Administration made the announcement that $485,000,000 will be granted towards funding addiction recovery in America’s battle with opioids. The money will be distributed throughout the United States with Pennsylvania getting the fourth largest disbursement. 

Why Pennsylvania?

The disbursement of funds was determined by factoring which states had the most severe problems with addictions and how each state presented their proposals for the grant money. Pennsylvania health administrators were clear in stating that opioid addiction is the number one public health problem in their state.

Reports have indicated that there were more than 3,500 overdoses that led to deaths in the state of Pennsylvania in 2015. This is a 20% increase in deaths from opioids in 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

tablets-193666_1280Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania, estimates this number will go up even higher in 2016 and in 2017 if left unattended. The most common problematic drug in 2015 in Pennsylvania was heroin while the next highest number of overdoses leading to death was by the prescription drug fentanyl. The Governor’s concern for his state has prompted some important initiatives to combat the epidemic. Their efforts are being substantiated by the CDC.

Opioid Crisis of Epidemic Proportions

The CDC has been watching the crisis grow in Pennsylvania. They have noted that from 2014 to 2016 a sharp rise in deaths from overdosing in Pennsylvania. The state is clearly in a crisis and has made some strides in fighting the epidemic through various programs and increasing the availability of drugs. Some of the new programs are listed below:

  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) 

The programs will be embedded to the already existing health care facilities and distribution networks making their implementation more streamline. As well the programs will be available to all economic sectors of Pennsylvania not just in the urban areas as was the common practice for these measures in the past. This tactical and inclusive approach was a key factor in determining Pennsylvania’s  monetary award from the Human Health Services.

A portion of the grant money will still be allocated towards dealing with the the process of “Warm handoffs”. This is the process of identifying an individual’s unique problem with addiction and then directing that individual to the appropriate treatment and recovery specialist. This method has the recommendations of doctors and is very accepted by the professionals who work in addiction recovery.

Tiger Woods’ DUI An Issue of Vicodin Not Alcohol


Tiger Woods has recently been arrested for a DUI but his blood alcohol level was 0.0%. It has been determined by law enforcement agents Mr. Woods was taking prescription pain killers due to his recent back surgery. It was determined that the medications were the cause of his impairment. The list of pharmaceuticals that he has been prescribed are below:

  • Soloxine
  • Vicodin
  • Turoxpill-1884775_1280

Vicodin is a highly addictive prescription painkiller that is commonly distributed. Turox is an anti-inflammatory drug. Soloxine a drug used for dogs with hyperthyroidism. It has been shown that the synergy of these drugs can lead to serious complications with health. In some cases the combination of such drugs have even led to death. However it is the Vicodin that is the most dangerous drug in this group.

Mr. Woods’ arrest gives a signal for Americans to be on alert in regards to their safety on the roads. There is a rising rate in accidents ending in fatalities due to drivers under the influence of opioids. Therefore not only alcohol related deaths in automobile accidents are the concern these days. Furthermore the combination of alcohol and prescription pain killers are of extreme concern to public safety.

Even without this deadly combination of drugs the leading cause for impairment are the opioids which stand alone as a major factor in a person’s inability to properly function behind the wheel. As in the case of Tiger Woods who was found asleep while in the driver’s seat. His slumber was directly due to the effects of the highly addictive opioid Vicodin.

Society is fortunate that Mr. Woods’ incident was only an arrest and not a serious accident. The statistics are unfortunately negative in regards to the actual deaths caused by prescription opioid related car accidents:

  • 2014, 9,967 people died in alcohol related crashes
  • 1/3 of all related fatalities in the USA from alcohol
  • 20% of drivers killed in car accidents tested positive for drugs
  • 2010  11% of car accidents with fatalities by drugged driver

While drugs purchased on the streets like heroin adds considerably to the death toll, the largest increase in deaths are related to prescription opiates such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone. The number of deaths from methadone increased by a factor of 7 between 1999 and 2006, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).