When it comes to the opioid crisis, there are a lot of misconceptions about how individuals get addicted. Many imagine drugs being traded on the streets, but the truth is, many victims end up in bad positions due to other medical treatments.
The United States healthcare system has inadvertently caused increases in opioid use while also not providing the resources to assist anyone that becomes addicted. Though insurance can help individuals receive support for maladies such as back pain—solutions that often include opioid painkillers—getting treatment for addiction is another cost that falls on the patient.
Anybody that has experience with addiction knows that the issue can be difficult to acknowledge objectively and even more difficult to seek help for. Addicts should not be treated as monsters—merely individuals that may need some empathy to get back on their feet.
However, though doctors are happy to prescribe painkillers that are covered by insurance, insurers are far less likely to provide coverage for drugs such as buprenorphine, which can be vital in overcoming addiction. Furthermore, it often costs even more for a patient to attend a rehab center that may get them the help they need.
And the quality of these rehab centers can vary greatly. Patients may end up cycling through many rehab centers, relapsing and returning without any sort of progress. Treatment can often include living in homes that are situated in the exact sort of environment conducive to obtaining more drugs. Additionally, professional help from a doctor is often not available, the only support coming from counselors that may not be able to provide necessary treatment.
All in all, not the sort of places that foster recovery. These facilities often take anybody that has insurance, leading to an approach that tries to treat any sort of addiction but fails to provide attentive or specialized care. People saw the opportunity to profit off of new laws and opened treatment centers intended to be run as a business. Not every treatment center is like this, but enough of them are that finding legitimate help can be something of a dicey affair.
As far as medication goes, the extra costs that patients are made to pay out of pocket contributes to a system in which trying to get help can be just as debilitating as addiction.
Part of the difficulty comes from inconsistencies in how coverage is handled from state to state. Difficulty in approving certain medications can create barriers for patients, and often, there’s no easy way of knowing what will or won’t be approved. For patients, acquiring medication is a process that can take days or even weeks—time that may cause an addiction to get worse. When the barriers to entry to get opioids are smaller than those to get treatment, relapses are sure to occur.
Stigma also plays a role here. Though buprenorphine has proven to be incredibly effective, the treatment of addicts in the United States have sharply limited its distribution. Similar drugs that have proven just as effective have received widespread distribution. The situation is muddled further by the fact that buprenorphine is an opioid in of itself.
In the future, better laws across states and closer regulation of rehab centers may help create an environment in which addicts are both willing and able to seek recovery. Oftentimes, resolving these issues has to take place on a case-by-case basis, but it will be necessary to address the underlying longevity and origins of the opioid crisis.