Addiction experts aren’t happy about what Tom Price, the U.S. health secretary, recently had to say about opioid addiction medications. Given the recent outcry from suburban and rural communities, health care officials and politicians are seeking real solutions. Not everyone agrees on how to handle this.
Stance for Tom Price
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said opioid replacement therapy is “just substituting one opioid for another.” In a sense his statement is accurate. But, if substitution coupled with longe-range care and therapy can ween people off of deadly addictive drugs, isn’t that good? However, Price was not referencing all therapeutic methods, just the ones that use even a small dose of opioids.
He’s talking about drugs like methadone and buprenorphine; they’re milder opioids that reduce withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to prescription opioids and heroin without causing a high. Typically, doctors prescribe treatments that ween people off of addiction. Keeping major drugs like heroin, and illegally traded prescription drugs, off of the street is a good thing.
Tom Price believes in a cure
Substitution treatment is the standard therapy for opioid addiction — it’s been scientifically proven to decrease drug abuse and increase recovery. These drugs are not sought after by street dealers. They do not lead to more addictive activity.
But Price says he believes opioid addiction can be “cured” through other avenues — like non-opioid therapies and abstinence programs. Anyone who has a friend who smokes cigarettes, or anyone who has smoked cigarettes, knows that addictions are real. Telling people to stop “cold turkey,” works in rare occasions.
Experts do not agree with Tom Price
Price’s statement also directly contradicts that of his department. HHS considers opioid addiction a chronic disease that can be managed, but not cured. Experts in the field fear that a stance like Price’s may make fighting this problem even worse. This a real problem. Therefore it requires real solutions.