Drug Addiction Treatment
medication assisted treatment more effective than drug detox
By BrightView
Published: November 21, 2017
Updated: August 4, 2021

There is hope for those who are publicly insured and facing opioid addiction, including heroin, fentanyl, or prescription narcotics. But it may not be what you’ve heard. In fact, it’s probably the opposite of what many advertisements, public service announcements, media outlets, TV shows, and social media have been telling you. Groundbreaking research indicates that the traditional medically supervised “detoxification” process doesn’t work. Additionally, it can be an astronomically expensive process as well as a physically and emotionally demanding experience. Surprisingly, abstinence-based programs are actually more effective than detox alone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The most effective way to treat the brain disease of opioid addiction is through medication assisted treatment (MAT), individual counseling, group therapy, and social services support.

What Is Medication Assisted Treatment?

Medication-assisted treatment involves the use of FDA-approved medications that include buprenorphine to ease withdrawal symptoms and curb cravings. Suboxone and Vivitrol are two of the most commonly used medications in MAT programs, and they are both safe to use and highly effective. These medications make it possible for patients to focus on overcoming the underlying causes of addiction after reaching a place of stability.

Overcoming addiction is hard. It can feel insurmountable at times, but the good news is that tens of thousands of people have entered long-term recovery from opioid and alcohol addiction. No single method works perfectly for everyone, but chances are someone with a story similar to yours has found help.

What Does the Research Say?

Let’s look at the economic impact of effective addiction treatment compared to drug detox programs.  A study published recently indicated that taxpayers could save nearly $80,000 per person who seeks a comprehensive outpatient treatment provider rather than detox alone. Multiply this impact by the nearly three million affected individuals, and you have a gigantic impact on taxpayers and the economy.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

The data on opioid addiction treatment is even more alarming:

  • Only about 20% of those who are struggling with opioid addiction receive any kind of treatment.
  • That means nearly 80% of people with opioid addiction won’t get help.
  • Of those who are fortunate enough to seek help, less than half will receive effective outpatient treatment.
  • Approximately 90% of those facing opioid addiction won’t get effective help.

This has to change. Unfortunately, though, many states have regulations on the books that push people to detox programs instead of outpatient drug rehab. For those on Medicaid, some states even require proof that a patient has failed out of detox-only programs before approving coverage for a more comprehensive treatment option with buprenorphine.

Alternatives to Detox Programs

A recently published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine emphasized the need for better public policies. Those limiting access to evidence-based treatment options is hurting patients and actively costing taxpayers a great deal. If for a single year all those seeking treatment for addiction were funneled into outpatient drug rehab with buprenorphine instead of medically supervised detox programs, the collective savings over the lifetime of that single year’s patients would be nearly $4 billion, according to the recent study.

If we can collectively pull more people from detox only into comprehensive, evidence-based outpatient care, the outlook for addiction wouldn’t be so bleak. It’s going to take listening to the research and adapting accordingly. This means changes to public policy. It means the media narrative has to change. It also means less stigma from the general public. The Annals of Internal Medicine didn’t quite say that we can beat addiction, but this new study lays out the playbook for us. Now we need to act.

Reach Out to BrightView Today

At BrightView, we offer medication assisted treatment in a number of convenient locations throughout Ohio and Kentucky. Take the first step to recovery today and reach out to our team at 888.501.9865 or find a location near you online. Take advantage of this evidence-based approach to treatment and take your life back from addiction.