The Beginning of the End of the Abstinence Rule?


The reaction to the news last week that Hazelden will be using medication-assisted treatment—including the maintenance drug, buprenorphine (Suboxone), potentially indefinitely for some patients—has been intense. “Hell froze over,” one tweeter responded, expressing shock that the granddaddy of abstinence-based treatment could make such a big change. “It’s about time,” said Dr. Charles O’Brien, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Center for Studies on Addiction, and one of the field’s most eminent researchers. The head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, also praised the decision.

But while people familiar with the incontrovertible data showing that maintenance saves lives are singing Hosannas and hoping that Hazelden’s shift foretells a sea change, those who believe that abstinence is the only acceptable treatment outcome aren’t surrendering without a fight. And public misperceptions about intoxication from maintenance medications could support this backlash if not appropriately addressed. Read More…

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