Heroin Epidemic: Panel says using drugs to treat drugs works

Heroin Epidemic: Panel says using drugs to treat drugs works (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A panel of opioid addiction experts and recovery advocates say treating drugs addiction with drugs works.

Scientific American hosted a town hall on the opioid epidemic Thursday night, October 20, at Mercy Health West. The panel agreed that pharmaceutical assisted recovery plans work but are underfunded and underutilized. They said that we need to start treating addiction like other chronic diseases.

"Diabetes Type 2 is a situation where you have some genetic predisposition, you have some exposure, in this case usually food--cheesecake, cheeseburgers, etc--and that is exactly how we need to look at addiction," says Dr. Shawn Ryan, Chief Medical Officer of BrightView.

The President and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, Behshad Sheldon estimates that about 1 in 5 addicts are using a medication-assisted recovery plan. Her company is one of only a handful that's investing in the field.

"If we can convince insurance companies that it's worthwhile to pay for these medicines then more and more drug companies will get into this business of spending--investing their funds and doing research for new alternatives for treating all kind of addiction," says Sheldon.

The discussion energized Charlotte Wethington whose son Casey died of addiction. She says her son wasn't given many treatment options.

"They were still treating addiction by--as they said tonight--the old model. That's not what we need to be doing. We know better now and when we know better we can do better, and what we know now is that medication plus other forms of therapy is the best evidence-based practice for opiate addiction," says Wethington.

Casey's Law in Kentucky is named for her son. The law allows loved ones to pursue court ordered treatment for addicts.

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