New Guidelines Poised to Help Doctors Treat Addiction

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

As the opioid epidemic rages on, many people point the finger of blame at physicians. And to make matters worse, studies show doctors have received very little guidance on how much and how often they should prescribe opioids to their patients. But a new set of guidelines aim to change all that.

Last month, the American College of Physicians (ACP) instituted new recommendations to help shift doctors’ perspectives on how to effectively prescribe opioids and treat opioid dependency.

Some of these comprehensive guidelines include providing doctors with updated information on:

  • Appropriate pain management
  • Controlled substances guidelines
  • Naloxone and how it’s used to reverse overdoses
  • Medication-assisted treatment options such as Suboxone and Vivitrol

A Step In the Right Direction

These recommendations are in line with what addiction specialists have known for years, said Clark Smith, an addiction specialist in the San Diego area, in that doctors need to see chemical dependency is just like any illness – it’s treatable and might need lifelong management. Oftentimes, he said, when people go through a medically assisted detox, they don’t receive any follow-up care and end up relapsing.

Smith also stressed the importance of medication-assisted treatment, something addiction specialists have advocated for a long time. According to Smith, people have really benefited in the long-term from this form of treatment, especially after completing rehab or a 12-step program. He cited research from San Diego and North County drug courts which showed that people who took all six doses of Vivitrol within the allotted time maintained their sobriety over the next two years.

Leave the Past Behind

Despite the success rates with medication-based treatment, Clark said doctors are still reluctant to utilize it due to past experiences with prescribing other medications that haven’t always been effective, such as methadone. As a result, physicians tend to stick with old school treatments, such as 12-step programs and willpower. While those can be effective for some, Smith said, medication-based treatment can also champion long-term sobriety.

Smith hopes these new guidelines create a shift in perspective and attitude in the medical community. With more options, people battling an opioid dependency have a much better chance of getting clean – and staying clean.

Additional Reading:   Why You Should Care About the Repeal of ObamaCare
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