Like me, you may be seeing the headlines from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement late yesterday that an existing medication for the treatment of alcohol dependence has now been approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. The approval of the medication is for use among adults over the age of 18 and is phrased by the FDA as, “for the prevention of relapse to opioid dependence.”
This could be a major positive development for families with a young adult dealing with an addiction to prescription pain medications or heroin. The non-narcotic, non-addictive medication, Vivitrol from the company Alkermes is certain to get the attention of physicians, treatment professionals, patients and their families. Because addiction is a chronic disease of the human brain, and opioid addiction, in particular, is so often characterized by frequent relapse, this new FDA approval could mean that a person entering treatment for addiction to an opioid would have the benefit of a once-monthly, opioid-blocking medication during treatment and for some period afterward.
My view is that this medication, or any medication of this kind, must be used at the same time with appropriate addiction treatment services, including psychosocial support. I believe that is consistent with what experts are saying about the emerging field of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT is an approach to treatment of substance use disorders that combines use of a medication with appropriate treatment services, including counseling and behavioral therapy.
This should come as good news to parents who are at the center of our mission. Over the past year, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has worked closely with parents and experts in the treatment and recovery field to create Time To Get Help.This new treatment resource and community helps parents and caregivers gain a better understanding of teen alcohol and drug abuse, dependence and addiction; get support from experts and other parents who have been there and understand the challenges and emotions of caring for an addicted child; and find the right treatment for their child and family.
What are your thoughts on opioid addiction and approaches like MAT? We would love to hear from you.