Feds urging states to consider different drug addiction treatments

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Aug 21, 2015 4:26 AM

Photo by AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File

(York) -- Drug-abuse treatment experts have long supported a change in the way addiction is handled, and now, they're starting to see results.

The federal government is encouraging states to award grants to facilities that offer medication-assisted treatment.

Drugs like suboxone or methadone can make the transition off heroin easier without getting patients high. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has long been pushing the change.

Many experts say it's easier to fight addiction with these drugs, instead of requiring patients to get sober.

One expert in Blair County, Christopher Cook of the Hope Program, says he would like to see an emphasis on subxone over methadone. It can be dispensed by physicians and doesn't give users a high.

"It's just an advancement, it's the evolution of that type of treatment in my opinion. I think we should seperate out, though, you can't just lump everything as medication-assisted treatment," says Cook.

Cook says his program already uses drugs like vivitrol, which blocks the effects of opiates. 

But methadone, in Cook's opinion, isn't effective.

"If the disease of addiction is caused by the presence of an aganist in the brain over time, genetics being the determinant of time, then why would we treat the disease with an aganist in the brain over time?" he adds.

The federal government's push towards drug-assisted treatment could prompt a change in how states like Pennsylvania award grants to addiction programs. In fiscal year 2015, the block grant program totaled $1.8 billion nationwide.

The state agency that distributes the grant money the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, says it supports the approach, as long as sober treatment facilities are funded as well.

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