As the opioid crisis worsens, debates continue over the best available methods to combat it. While some feel medication-assisted treatment — helping the patient completely abstain from opioids — should be preferred, others believe that the patient can be assisted in assuaging the discomfort from withdrawal symptoms by augmenting the recovery process with milder opioids like methadone or buprenorphine.
The goal of treatment is to curb the abuse of drugs and facilitate recuperation so that the patient is able to function productively — at home, workplace, and in community. Research has shown that long-term treatment is more successful in curbing drug abuse and controlling criminal activity, apart from improving occupational, social and psychological functioning. However, everyone’s recovery journey is different and depends on the nature and extent of the addiction problem.
States in US treat opioid addiction differently
All treatment options have varying degrees of effectiveness with each patient, which also depends on the quality of interaction between the patient and the treatment provider. However, it appears from an analysis made by Fair Health — an independent nonprofit that collects data and manages the nation’s largest database of privately billed health insurance claims — that patients diagnosed with opioid abuse or dependence receive different medical services depending on the location of their residency. This data, however, does not include claims from government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid and only includes claims data from insurers representing more than 150 million Americans who have job-based insurance or purchase it on their own.
Fair Health did an analysis of health insurance claims related to opioid addiction from five states between 2007 and 2016 and found that each state had a different approach towards opioid addiction treatment. For instance, the most frequently used procedures in California that made highest claims were drug tests and outpatient services, such as counseling. In New York, methadone administration was more common while in Texas, top five frequently used procedures were drug-screening lab tests. Some of these tests were the same as those used in California while there were some that were not, such as urinalysis, which checks for signs of improper drug use. In Illinois, the top two services billed were 15-minute doctor visits and naltrexone injections — a drug used to prevent relapse in opioid users.
The basis for such differences in treatment is not apparent and difficult to assess. Robin Gelburd, president of Fair Health suggests that it may reflect the general attitudes or accessibility for the people to the most readily available services in the health care system.
Claims in rural areas are higher
The analysis also found that rural areas made higher claims related to opioid abuse and dependence, accounting for 32 percent. It was 25 percent from urban areas. Patients aged 51 to 60 years made the most claims—debunking the myth that only young people are affected by this opioid epidemic.
More claims were filed for opioid addiction tests and treatment by middle-aged patients from rural areas, while there was no specific observation of a similar nature in urban areas. However, despite these analyses, it is hard to make sweeping generalizations about rural and urban differences. Although the San Antonio area makes up just 5 percent of the Texas population, surprisingly 66 percent of the state’s opioid-related claims have come from there. New York City, on the other hand, make up 43 percent of New York’s population but only 13 percent of the claims have been made from there.
Substance abuse is like any other chronic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension. One can best manage substance abuse disorder through treatment, along with continual evaluation and modification as the recovery progresses. Just as a disease like hypertension or diabetes can relapse if treatment is discontinued, similarly, addiction is also prone to relapse if treatment is not continued or not adjusted according to the need of the patient. Relapse rates for addiction, therefore, resemble those of other chronic diseases as mentioned. Unfortunately, when relapses occur in addiction treatment, many deem the treatment as a failure which is not the case.
The Prescription Drug Addiction Helpline is a useful online resource to seek information related to prescription drug abuse treatment centers. You can chat online with our treatment experts or call our 24/7 helpline 866-623-3847 for immediate assistance.