It’s life or death for many Americans

by Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM

Most Americans can feel secure knowing the medical treatments they receive are safe, effective, and supported by scientific evidence and best practices. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to fighting one of the deadliest epidemics our nation has ever faced: the crisis of opioid addiction.

As the rates of opioid use disorder (OUD) and associated deaths have skyrocketed over the past decade, America’s addiction treatment infrastructure has struggled to keep pace with an urgent and growing healthcare need. A chronic, treatable brain disease, substance use disorder (SUD) can be managed by combining appropriate medications with behavioral therapy and ongoing recovery support services.

While there are nationally recognized standards for evidence-based care, treatment programs are not required to follow them, and many lack the resources to do so – leaving patients and loved ones with little assurance that a particular program is equipped to deliver high-quality addiction treatment.

What has been missing is a way for healthcare consumers, insurers, and policymakers to verify that a treatment program provides standardized treatments and services backed by science and known best practices. Matching patients with the right treatment is incredibly important, since patients living with OUD and other addiction disorders are battling a chronic, progressive disease that has a high risk for death if untreated, or inadequately treated.

The recently enacted SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (HR 6) – a sweeping legislative package aimed at addressing the opioid crisis – included several important provisions to help promote the delivery of evidence-based care for the treatment of OUD.

But more needs to be done.

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