Medication Assisted Treatment
Medication assisted treatment, according to Dr. Yngvild Olsen, is now the “standard of care” for opioid use disorder. Methadone was once the only FDA approved medicine for treatment, but fifty years of research have led to the approval of buprenorphine and naltrexone medications, as well. Dr. Olsen says these medicines help stabilize patients, and significantly reduce opioid-related mortality rates.
Available in liquid, tablet, implantable and injectable forms, these medications all block the mu receptors in the brain, which are affected in people with an opioid use disorder. Medication choice and success is individualized, but David Nix and Nicole Moses have both found help with these treatments.
David Nix tried Buprenorphine early in his recovery process, but has recently had more success with treatment involving methadone. He feels that his experience was tied to timing, says that utilizing medication assisted treatment as a means of support is “better than losing your life,” and believes that there has been a slight reduction in bias against it recently.
Nicole Moses has been in recovery for almost a decade, but sought treatment with buprenorphine after being prescribed post-surgery opioids several years ago. She is adamant that use of medication assisted treatment should not impact a patient’s “clean time,” as long as they are taking their medicines as prescribed. She says buprenorphine has helped her focus, and stopped her cravings.
Historically, methadone has only been available through Opioid Treatment Programs; centers that are federally required to provide wraparound services for patients. Dr. Olsen lauds this integrated, holistic care, says OTPs can do more, and is pleased that some OTP’s have begun to offer buprenorphine and other medical services as well.Additionally, she praises the availability of buprenorphine through primary care providers, and hopes that opioid use disorder treatment can continue to be integrated with the rest of medical practice, in order to help reduce stigma.
Nicole Moses wants others to know that “your life is not over” if they seek help for opioid use. David Nix is grateful for the support system he has, and believes that each day, we are “given this gift of the day that we’re in.” Both are continuing their lives in recovery.