Let’s be clear here, loss of life is without a doubt the obvious and most significant tragedy in any war. Life is valuable, but life’s value is congruent with purpose and potential...potential that can have an effect on us all. Clarence the Angel said it best to George Bailey in the classic It’s a Wonderful Life: “One man’s life touches so many others, when he’s not there it leaves an awfully big hole.” Sentimentality aside, this quote speaks volumes. These potential killers (pun intended), while faceless are not masked gunman, no, they are a bit more sophisticated and are scientifically engineered to hide within the confines of a tiny little pill.
So what’s being done to help curb this issue? It seems as though we’ve been fighting this particular war for eons without any end in sight and as losses continue to pile up, so do the outcries of friends and family members of loved ones who have succumbed to these battles. Petitions have been drafted, fundraisers have been orchestrated and governments have made declarations of war. Much has been done to fight this battle, but as any true artist of war knows, strategy and keen insight are paramount in defeating one’s enemy. As one plan gets put in place, a new challenge arises. The enemy has grown eerily accustomed to adapting to whatever thwarting mechanisms are put in place, allowing them to grow increasingly more elusive as the war rages on.
It’s time to fight fire with fire. According to Business Insider, there are a growing number of health professionals that believe medication-assisted treatment (or MAT) is an effective form of treatment as it uses FDA approved medications to help curb cravings and deal with the pain and other symptoms that can come from withdrawal. This would seem like a simple, no brainer strategy, but as of late there have been numerous challenges in providing these types of treatments including skepticism from other health professionals, misconceptions about the proper use of MAT and the stigma surrounding drug use and addiction. Additionally, many treatment centers just don't have the proper licenses to obtain this type of treatment, while for some, it’s just simply not available. Health professionals who believe in the treatment are urging others to learn more about the treatment so they may see how time and again, these treatments have been effective in dealing with addiction. According to Business Insider, "A handful of physicians and social workers are also helping to lead the charge by calling attention to the scientific evidence that shows MAT is more effective than an abstinence-only model." Spreading awareness of MAT’s effectiveness to officials and medical providers may be the key to turning the tide on its restrictions and may save more lives in the process.
Key points are being made in the debate for MAT treatment such as this one by Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the substance use disorder initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital: “You can access heroin pretty easily, yet we make it really hard to get a treatment that’s life-saving and allows you to live healthily.” Patrice A. Harris, chair of the American Medical Association’s opioid task force (also a board-certified psychologist) says, “People ask me all the time, ‘well, aren't they just substituting one drug for another?’ The answer is no. These are evidence-based treatments and they work.”
As the opioid crisis continues to rise, it’s important to set in place evidenced-based, scientifically-backed options on the front lines as a means to combat what has seemingly been an incredibly insurmountable foe. Doing what we can to help serve as a voice of reason may help bring awareness to our medical providers and government officials. Our lives are valuable, but that value’s capacity is in part predicated by our willingness to save the lives of others. Let’s not kill that potential.