In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) introduced this bill to facilitate the administration of MAT to patients waiting to begin long-term treatment for opioid use disorder.
Lead Republican cosponsor Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) expressed support for this bill, along with 11 other pieces of opioid legislation, in the November 2019 issue of The Ripon Forum. He wrote, “These bipartisan bills represent a commitment to continue the all-hands-on-deck approach in the next front of this fight to stem the tide of addiction and save lives in our communities.”
This bill passed the House Committee on Energy and Commerce by voice vote with the support of one cosponsor, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR).
Of Note: Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.
Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat substance use disorders and help sustain recovery. It has also been shown to:
- Improve patient survival;
- Increase retention in treatment;
- Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders;
- Increase patients’ abilities to gain and maintain employment;
- Improve birth outcomes among pregnant women with substance use disorders; and
- By reducing the potential for a relapse, contribute to lowering patients’ risks of contracting HIV or hepatitis C
MAT is primarily used to treat opioid addiction to substances such as heroin and opioid-containing pain relievers. The medication normalizes brain chemistry, blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieves physiological cravings, and normalizes body functions without the negative and euphoric effects of the substance used.
Although medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) is thoroughly researched and validated as a highly effective OUD treatment, it continues to face opposition form the public, health professionals, and sometimes patients themselves.
In May 2017, then-Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price said that MAT is “just substituting one opioid for another,” which he characterized as “not moving the dial much” on opioid addiction. Later, Secretary Price’s office released a statement clarifying that he did support MAT and was open to learning more about and implementing all kinds of treatment options for those struggling with addiction. However, the original statement characterized a common opposition to MAT.
In general, two arguments are made in opposition to MAT: first, that certain MATs can be abused in the same way as opioids. Second, that abstinence should always be advocated first and that those who really want to abstain from taking drugs will seek treatment options that don’t involve taking more drugs.
On a practical level, doctors may struggle to decide which form of MAT patients should receive. This is because there’s no established standard for which patients should receive MAT and what those patients should receive.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Moussa81)