When it comes to the science behind medication-assisted treatment and recovery for substance abuse patients, “the facts are the facts,” said Keli McLoyd, an associate at the Center for Policy Research and Analysis at the Treatment Research Institute.
“They work — period,” McLoyd said of the three Federal Drug Administration-approved medications used for treating patients in recovery from addiction. Those three medications are buprenorphine (commonly known as Suboxone), methadone and naltrexone.
McLoyd, who has previous experience as a lawyer, now works for the Philadelphia-based Treatment Research Institute, dealing specifically with the policy behind medication-assisted treatment and the research that has gone into it. And as someone who is personally in long-term recovery (although McLoyd states that personal connection is something she keeps separate from her policy work), she was vehement in talking about all the intricacies behind each of the aforementioned three medications. For example, she went over how buprenorphine can only be obtained from a doctor who has a waiver to give it away, which already adds complications to the fact that doctors who have waivers are only permitted to seeing 100 patients at any given time. Yet while something like naltrexone, which is administered through a shot that’s only needed once a month and no waiver is required to prescribe it, should be an easier solution, its cost ($1000 per shot) is something that halts access to it.
McLoyd also went on to talk briefly about how the still-existing stigma behind addiction has been a barrier to primary care doctors even treating such patients. Going along with that unwillingness to treat patients dealing with addiction (hampered also by the Not-in-my-backyard ideals surrounding treatment facilities), she also said doctors just don’t know enough about the topic. It’s why she and the Treatment Research Institute have been working on implementing courses at medical schools to help inform those studying medicine about addiction and the medication behind helping treat it. Temple University has a Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse course at Temple’s medical school, which is taken by graduate students, medical students and psychology students.
With the line of work McLoyd deals in, she also was sure to mention how she is aware of how medications like buprenorphine alone can’t be the all-encompassing solution for people dealing with addiction — she talked about how there’s research showing that these medications are only effective with “psychosocial behavioral therapy.” And when it comes to the conflict between policy and science, like when legislation is pushed out there without any applicable research going into the reasoning for these policy changes, McLoyd says that both industries need to be better about working together to help those in need.