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Millions of Americans struggle with opioid dependence or use. The president has recently declared a state of emergency on the opioid crisis sweeping our nation. Many are looking for answers or where we should turn to next to begin this battle. This public health issue has now come to a head. Behavioral healthcare is and will continue to be a major player in how we begin to solve this opioid drug crisis in America.


Healthcare’s Role

The Office of National Drug Control Policy recommends that providers in behavioral healthcare settings should receive training in MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment). In addition to the training, providers should offer a holistic, ‘whole patient’ approach to individualized therapies. They also believe that a combination of holistic measures and psychosocial support, such as support groups and individualized therapies, could prove as an effective treatment for those with addiction issues.

MAT is an effective treatment to address an individual’s care regarding opioid, alcohol and tobacco addiction according to the United States Food and Drug Administration. The problem is the availability of MAT and these resources. Fewer than 1 million received MAT in 2012 over the age of 12 of the 2.5 million affected by this epidemic. Certain behavioral health institutions have yet to adopt and embrace MAT and its benefits because of barriers such as staff unfamiliarity and untrained employees regarding this treatment.

There is also a general stigma that drug addiction should not be fought with another drug, even if it is combined with behavioral therapy techniques. The problem is replacing drugs with other drugs. The step from drug use to addiction happens when habitual drug use begins hindering an individual’s daily functions. For example, if someone begins stealing and committing crimes in order to maintain their addiction, this is when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders determines someone a drug addict.

The recognition of this crisis is a major step in the beginning process to truly solve this issue. Many states have begun to implement measure to make MAT more available to their constituents. According to a 2016 report by the surgeon general, only 10 percent of people who have a drug addiction issue get the individualized treatment they need.