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Overcoming a stubborn barrier to treatment

Odyssey House President Dr. Peter Provet discusses the importance of medication-assisted treatment to reducing opioid overdose deaths in response to a recent article in The New York Times.

This City’s Overdose Deaths Have Plunged. Can Others Learn From It?” (News, Nov 26), touches on one of the most stubborn barriers to overcome in addiction treatment: the resistance many substance abusers have to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Despite decades of failed draconian crime and punishment approaches to addiction and the accompanying stigma of addicts, one of the communities most stubbornly resistant to medication support is, ironically, that of substance abusers themselves. Too often, the goal to obtain a recovery lifestyle gets misinterpreted and overgeneralized to include addiction medications, incorrectly perceived as “drugs.”

The elected officials, police, social service and medical providers in Dayton, Ohio are to be commended for working together to address one of the highest overdose death rates in the nation. Similar collaborations in New York City, built up over decades, are working to increase access to behavioral health treatment that combines medication with therapeutic support. But until we can integrate effective treatment approaches, social, psychological, and yes, pharmaceutical, we will continue to see appallingly high overdose deaths.

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