Drug treatment for drug addiction

Researchers are busy figuring out new ways to deal with the opioid addiction crisis, but one of the most effective approaches also comes with a good deal of controversy. That’s because it involves the use of drugs to deal with those hooked on drugs.

Methadone and Suboxone are both opioids, but they satisfy an addict’s cravings without producing the high that comes from heroin or synthetic opioids. Years of experience using the two drugs, writes German Lopez in a length piece for Vox, is finally turning US addiction treatment attitudes away from the abstinence-only view that has long dominated.

One turning point, writes Lopez, was the 2012 declaration by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, one of the country’s leading drug addiction treatment providers, that it would begin using medication-assisted treatment along with abstinence programs that rely on the 12-step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

With tens of thousands of overdose deaths per year, “America is finally considering how its response to addiction can be better rooted in science instead of the moralistic stigmatization that’s existed for so long,” writes Lopez.

Studies show that medication-assisted treatment can cut the death rate for opioid addicts by half, Lopez writes, and its value is now recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the World Health Organization.

Edward Murphy, a former state health care official and executive in the private sector, writes in the new fall issue of CommonWealth, that our effort to deal comprehensively with the opioid addiction crisis has been held back by the idea that medication-assisted treatment constitutes a “morally compromised approach” because it involves “simply switching dependency from one substance to another.”

Drug addiction is increasingly viewed as a disease, not a moral failing or crime. No one questions the use of insulin to treat diabetes, or drugs to control high blood pressure, say public health experts. The fact that this illness is defined by abuse of a potent drug, of course, is what complicates the debate and leads some to question the prescribing of other drugs to deal with it. (No one seems to argue, however, with the use of the overdose-reducing drug naloxone to save lives.)

A third drug approach to addiction is Vivitrol, which is not an opioid and can be given via a once-a-month injection. Results released yesterday from a study in Norway showed that Vivitrol was as effective as Suboxone, which is taken daily, in maintaining abstinence from use of heroin and similar drugs over a three-month period.

All of the drug treatments come with risks of their own. What’s more, Lopez writes, medication-assisted treatment fails to work for as much as 40 percent of those with opioid addiction, so it’s no magic bullet. But it’s certainly an important part of the weaponry.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

The Senate is leading the push for criminal justice reform, but the branch seems to be moving in the other direction on funding for initiatives to help gang members get back on track and avoid prison. (CommonWealth)

A Herald editorial takes a dim view of a Senate health care bill unveiled earlier this week.

There is $12 million sitting unused in a state fund to boost horse racing purses. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Brockton City Council postponed a vote, until at least after the election, on Mayor Bill Carpenter’s proposal to purchase the Aquaria desalination plant in Dighton for $78 million. (The Enterprise)

A residential housing development in Hopkinton has increased school enrollment by 6 percent with more students expected but officials say payments from the developers and higher-than-expected sales prices resulting in increased revenues mitigates the impact. (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is taking a lead role in fighting against President Trump’s tax plan. (Boston Globe)

President Trump now opposes a fix to the Affordable Care Act that he supported earlier this week. (Boston Herald)

The mother of a slain soldier is backing the account of a Florida congresswoman who said she heard Trump tell the widow her husband “knew what he was signing up for.” (New York Times)

In testy exchanges with Democrats on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to reveal any discussions with Trump over the firing of former FBI director James Comey or the president’s decision to reverse the Obama administration’s policy on young immigrants. (U.S. News & World Report)

Joan Vennochi says it’s pretty hard for Hillary Clinton to publicly dial up outrage over the Harvey Weinstein story given her own husband’s history of sexual predation. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

A Lowell Sun editorial said Daniel Koh raised an impressive $805,000 during the first three months of his campaign for Congress, but the fact that 95 percent of the money came from outside the 3rd Congressional district suggest his ties to the area are “slim and none.”

Boston mayoral challenger Tito Jackson calls for a return to an elected school committee and says he wants to turn the city’s quasi-independent planning and development arm into a standard city department. (Boston Herald)

A Republican editorial expressed embarrassment at the 5.4 percent turnout in the Springfield September preliminary election and suggests it may be time to move from two-year terms to four-year terms in a bid to boost participation.

Barack Obama is returning to the political arena for the first time since he left office, stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey (Phil Murphy) and Virginia (Ralph Northam). (Associated Press)

Facebook, Google, and other tech companies are fighting an attempt by several senators, including Sen. John McCain, to force them to reveal the identities of buyers of political ads on their websites. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Here’s what cities across America are saying in their bid to land Amazon’s second headquarters. (Associated Press) Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella shares a rendering of what an Amazon headquarters could look like adjacent to I-190. (MassLive) Worcester’s bid for Amazon’s second quarters can be read here. (MassLive) A bidding war could break out in the effort to land HQ2, which would mean everything is working according to plan for the company. (Boston Globe) How does Boston fare in the competition? (Greater Boston)

Roger Goodell said NFL players will not be required to stand during the national anthem. (Associated Press)

EDUCATION

A Stoughton High School teacher, identified by the  Brockton Enterprise as the girls’ softball coach at the school, was forced to resign after an investigation found he allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a student that continued after the teen graduated.

Natick software firm MathWorks is donating $10 million to Boston’s Museum of Science. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Opioid prescriptions have declined by 28 percent over the last three years, according to a database maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. (Salem News)

TRANSPORTATION

Boston traffic is not just taking a toll on commuters; it’s gumming up the works for tour operating companies as well. (Boston Globe)

Massport officials gave an upbeat update to Worcester residents on their progress with the airport. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A Sudbury citizens’ group suing to block Eversource’s proposed transmission line between Hudson and Sudbury is scrambling to file expert testimony in the case after its consulting firm unexpectedly withdrew without explanation. (MetroWest Daily News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A 20-year-old Duxbury man was indicted by a grand jury for amassing a cache of guns and explosives and falsely claiming to police he was an agent with Homeland Security. (Patriot Ledger)

The Senate criminal justice bill set for debate next week includes provisions that would rein in the use of solitary confinement in state prisons. (Boston Globe)

The principal of a Brewster elementary school was charged with breaking into her former boyfriend’s apartment and stealing sex toys. (Cape Cod Times)

Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney said she was molested for years by a USA Gymnastics team doctor. (Associated Press)