by Sam Zamarripa
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is making inroads in the recovery of patients addicted to opioids and other substances. Intent Solutions’ dispensing system, tadTM, is drawing attention from MAT advocates as a potential fit to this treatment approach. That’s more good news for us.
It’s an approach that has had its share of controversy, although MAT is gaining wide acceptance today. Even a leading proponent of traditional, inpatient, abstinence-based programs for opioid addiction recovery, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, has designed a MAT model for treating Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) in response to the number of patients who have left the Foundation’s programs prematurely—only to relapse and die from overdose.
MAT has been controversial because it includes the use of controlled substances that can become addictive if misused or abused—which is precisely why our tad dispensing system has such potential for MAT. In the MAT model, patients are treated on an outpatient basis and, working with their physicians and therapists, are allowed access to a regimen of medications that can prevent overdoses while satisfying the withdrawal cravings for the addictive substance.
How MAT works—a brief description
The MAT approach was set in motion by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000), which repealed the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act prohibiting physicians from treating narcotics addicts with narcotics.
Medications used in MAT include buprenorphine, an opioid partial agonist, which produces euphoria like opioids but with weaker effects than full agonists such as heroin and methadone. In combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, buprenorphine can provide a safe and effective way to treat opioid dependency, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
A common regimen in MAT programs is to pair buprenorphine with naloxone, a non-addictive opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids and is frequently used to treat opioid overdose. Suboxone® is one brand that contains both buprenorphine and naloxone for use in MAT programs.
tad—another layer of safety for MAT
Ben Levenson is a noted pioneer in substance abuse treatment programs, co-founder of Origins Recovery Centers for treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and chairman of The Levenson Foundation. (You might have seen him in his many appearances with Dr. Phil.) He is also an important ally of our company and our product.
An ardent proponent of the MAT model, Levenson sees the tad dispensing system offering two potential value propositions to MAT programs: 1) the ability it gives physicians to track and better control patient compliance with the prescribed regimen for taking Suboxone or other drugs, and 2) the secure access it provides that may reduce the potential the diversion, misuse or abuse of the drugs.
“tad can augment the likelihood of success and provide surveillance into their compliance, especially in the first 90 days of recovery when patients are the most vulnerable and have a propensity to relapse,” he says.
‘Acts like a daily dispensary’
Levenson believes tad has the potential to help more physicians take part in MAT programs because it could mitigate their risk in prescribing addictive drugs. “It really acts like a daily dispensary,” he says, “performing the function of a modern methadone clinic. And technology like tad provides a critical feedback component, allowing us to understand what happens to patients when we prescribe and treat so we can improve our practices. It’s a good time for tad.”
MAT is often termed “harm reduction therapy” because it offers a route to recovery that gives OUD sufferers a chance to continue using opioids in a controlled, safe environment while reducing dependence on them and experiencing a far lower rate of relapse, overdose and death.
It also provides a more realistic option for the 18-19 million Americans who meet the requirements for OUD treatment yet can’t access or afford traditional inpatient programs. Under DATA 2000, qualified U.S. physicians can offer buprenorphine for opioid dependency in their office, community hospital, health department or correctional facility.
Bringing more physicians on board
This wider access, MAT supporters believe, will help lower statistics like the alarming 325% increase in drug overdose deaths in rural areas from 1999 to 2015. The key now is to get more physicians comfortable with offering MAT programs—and technology like our tad dispensing system could support those efforts.
Our company was founded to tackle one problem: the enormous danger presented by unsecured vials of pills left in American medicine cabinets. To see our potential extending to new areas like MAT is indeed gratifying and keeps us moving forward, especially with the recent federal legislative support for technology like ours, which we wrote about in our last blog.
As Levenson said, “It’s a good time for tad.” We heartily agree.