Why California Needs More Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

“The government is talking about treatment and medication-assisted treatment in a way that the government has never done before.”

~ Tom Hill, National Council for Behavioral Health, Vice-President of Addiction and Recovery

The good news is addiction is FINALLY recognized as a disease of the brain, instead of a moral weakness or a lack of willpower. The bad news is the most-effective supportive therapy–Medication-Assisted Treatment–is not yet available everywhere.

And in California, a large state with an estimated three million residents who are addicted to illicit drugs, that presents a major public health problem.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

As is the case with other chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma, there are certain prescription medications that can help arrest the progress of the addiction.  When these medications are used in combination with other evidence-based therapies and dedicated lifestyle changes, they can make life more manageable for the struggling substance abuser.

While MAT is not a cure, it can support someone in recovery while they benefit from other types of treatment, such as behavioral counseling and peer group therapy. In fact, this amalgamation of psychosocial and pharmacological strategies is considered the “gold standard” of addiction treatment. When the right combination of medications is used, up to 85% of recipients go on to successfully complete rehab.

People in recovery may be given MAT drugs to help:

  • Reduce cravings (Acamprosate, Buprenorphine)
  • Ease withdrawal symptoms (Methadone, Bupropion)
  • Alleviate anxiety (Benzodiazepine tranquilizers)
  • Deter drug or alcohol use (Disulfiram, Vivitrol)

A Shortage in California

Despite these proven benefits, there is a shortage of MAT providers in California, resulting in serious consequences. For example, among the 21 zip codes with the highest rates of opioid poisoning deaths, NONE have an inpatient MAT facility nearby.

Of distressing relevance, there are 28 California counties lacking MAT facilities, and 17 of those have overdose death rates  higher than the state average.  6 of the 28 have rates more than triple California’s average.

What Does All of This Mean?

Thee statistics highlight the urgent importance of  employing the best evidence-based practices when treating an addictive disorder. Moving forward, this will mean increasing the availability and use of MAT in California. Currently, however, it means that the best chance a struggling alcoholic or addict has to successfully recover is through participation in an existing rehab program that already includes MAT among its available options.

If you live in Southern California and need help for alcoholism, illicit drug abuse, or the misuse of prescription medications, one of your top resources is Chapman House , a premier alcohol and  drug rehab located conveniently in Orange County.  In addition to other total wellness-focused therapies, Chapman House also offers FDA-approved prescription medications that can support you while you receive the education and counseling you need to best manage your disease.