Obama Drug Treatment: President Will Ask For $1 Billion To Help Treat Opioid Addiction

President Obama will be seeking $1 billion from Congress in order to implement a drug treatment program that will focus on treating people who are addicted to opioids. Drug treatment facilities are now realizing that the protocols they had used in the past are not the best method to treat patients who suffer from opioid drug addiction. Drug treatment programs are now understanding that the use of medications to help with addiction has a better success rate than cold turkey.

It is stated that over two million people suffer from some sort of opioid addiction but only half of them are receiving treatment. Whether the drug addiction is to heroin or prescription painkillers, federal funding is needed to ensure that addicts have all the tools available to them to recover. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and drug czar Michael Botticelli are championing the funding push by President Obama. Burwell says that the increase in funding “would help make evidence-based treatments available to all those seeking help for their opioid dependence. Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment or MAT, as it’s commonly called, is an important part of our strategy.”

The federal funding will not be uniformly allocated to each state. The drug treatment funds will be released to states depending on how the state plans to use the funds for treatment programs, and they must also agree to use medication-assisted treatment as part of their treatment plan.

Two of the most common medications used to treat opioid drug addiction are methadone and buprenorphine (suboxone). Suboxone is a drug that needs more doctors trained in its use. In the United States, doctors can’t treat more than 100 patients with suboxone. It has also been discovered that over 1,500 counties in the United States do not have any doctors that are trained in the use of suboxone, so they can’t prescribe it to patients. An interactive map, found here, allows users to hover over the county in which they live in order to determine if there is a doctor in their area who can treat them with suboxone.

The $1 billion will be asked for in the 2017 budget proposal. Congress has allocated $127 million for drug treatment programs in 2016. The 2015 budget only had $34 million to spend on opioid treatment programs. The drastic funding increases over the last couple years are due to bipartisan support of treating opioid drug addiction. Addiction is being viewed more as a disease as opposed to a criminal offense. A balancing act must be performed by lawmakers to make sure that criminal punishment for drug use and treatment for addiction are tackled simultaneously.

The main culprit of opioid addiction is heroin. In the past, the drug was found to be used by gang members and hardcore drug addicts. The user demographic has changed to the point that heroin use can be found in athletes, teens, and others who normally do not fit the profile of being a drug addict. According to the CDC, heroin use has doubled in women and young adults. Michael Botticelli, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director, commented on the increase in heroin use.

“Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered. They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation.”

Will an increase in funding help opioid addicts receive better care in drug treatment programs? Do you know someone who is addicted to opioids and would benefit from medication-assisted treatment?

[Image Via Spencer Platt / Getty Images]