In the United States, overdoses from heroin and prescribed opioids kill 68 people a day. The reality is that these deaths are often preventable, and addiction, in particular opioid addiction, is treatable when best practices are employed.

Blueprints for success

Since its founding in 1954, The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has been spreading the simple message: treat addiction and save lives. Most Rrecently, in response to this epidemic, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released a National Practice Guideline for the Use of Medications in the Treatment of Addiction Involving Opioid Use and held a stakeholder summit in late September to help accelerate the adoption of the recommendations into clinical practice.

"Less than 30 percent of addiction treatment programs offer medications."

The National Practice Guideline provides specific recommendations for assessment, diagnosis and treatment, including the management of opioid withdrawal. It focuses on specific, evidence-based guidance on the major medications used in addiction treatment.

Supply and demand

Three medications are currently approved by the FDA to treat addiction involving opioid use: buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone. And one medication, naloxone, is currently approved to help treat a consequence of addiction: opioid overdose. These medications, when used as outlined in ASAM’s guideline, are clinically and cost effective.

Tragically, however, today less than 30 percent of addiction treatment programs offer medications, and less than half of eligible patients in those programs receive medications, meaning there is a significant gap between those who need treatment and those who receive it.