RU Texas The Beat

New Healthcare Bill Has Addiction Treatment Resources Hanging in the Balance

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 24, 2017 8:33:48 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction Treatment, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act

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Kraig Moss was one of the most ardent Trump supporters that one is likely to find. The upstate New York resident, former business owner and amateur country singer even sold his construction equipment company, stopped making mortgage payments on his house and hit the road to support the current president during the campaign. All tolled, Moss attended 45 Trump rallies, writing and performing songs to drum up support for the candidate and shaking his hand on multiple occasions. All support and trust dissolved; however, with the rollout of the republican majority’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this month.

Moss belongs to one of the tens of thousands of families that lost a child to heroin addiction in the wake of the recent epidemic. Three years ago, he found is son Rob dead of an overdose at the age of 24. In the pursuit of answers and activism to curb the opioid and heroin crisis that has consumed this country-an epidemic that officials now say is the worst substance abuse crisis in American history-he clung to President Trump’s apparent support of a compassionate treatment-first approach to overdose prevention, a philosophy that has not exactly been bared out in the most recent iteration of the new GOP healthcare bill.

Moss’ primary gripe with the new law is the potential cuts to treatment services that could save thousands of people who struggled just as his son did. Currently it calls for the reduction of the Medicaid expansions that make it possible for states to provide treatment under the ACA mandate. A total of 31 states took advantage of the expansions over the past few years and have been able to provide significantly more treatment resources to keep pace with the escalating drug problems within their borders. Opponents of the expansion says it oversteps government authority, drives up costs and decreases individual choice.

The ACA replacement bill is scheduled for a house vote literally any minute now; however, despite all the contentious back and forth already surrounding the law, this vote is still likely to be the easiest legislative hurdle in the process. By the time it passes the senate, it may look entirely different. In the meantime; however, the tug of war to preserve treatment access through Medicaid continues between both parties, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans who are suffering from drug addiction, as well as their loved ones, waiting with bated breath.


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Is It Time To Adopt A State-by-State Approach to Addiction Treatment?

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 14, 2017 12:20:38 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction Treatment, Rehab, AATA, Regulations

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Yesterday it was announced that the American Addiction Treatment Association launched new industry regulations for addiction care facilities in the state of Michigan. Michigan is the ninth state in which AATA membership resources are available to industry professionals, sober/transitional living facilities, and addiction treatment centers. AATA has previously launched regulatory compliance resources in California, Arizona, New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia and RU’s home states of Florida and Texas. Membership will also soon become available in the coming months for Pennsylvania, Washington, Colorado, New Jersey, and Minnesota. One state that is left of the list is the beleaguered New Hampshire, which, while not yet under the AATA umbrella, got a special visit from New United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss the specialized nature of its drug epidemic.

Sessions spoke of the start of a national prevention movement during his surprise New Hampshire speech, but part of that may entail taking a special look at each state’s individual drug problem and allocating resources accordingly. The reality is that while virtually every state in the Union has been affected by the escalation of heroin and opioid fatality, some have felt the impact more than others, and others are battling their own separate epidemics. Texas, for example, continues to battle a significant methamphetamine problem, a drug that has long been contained in other regions of the country. The Lone Star State is also facing an issue of underreporting with regard to opioid overdose fatalities.

State-specific regulations could help to localize regional attention and maximize institutional resources. This is not to say that the addiction prevention battle should not be waged at the federal level; but if there were more state-specific guidelines and oversight by a single regulatory body, vulnerable residents might better understand their options and how to best take advantages of the resources available to them. While the opioid crisis is a national problem, each state should feel empowered to begin solving the problem within its borders; this includes streamlined and easily comprehensive guidelines, allocation of federal funding and state-specific prevention and education programs established and run by communities.

The fact is that some states need more help than others in battling addiction and overdose. Making sure they have the tools they need and formalizing treatment standards and practices to suit their specific addiction crises may be a good start to addressing the greatest national public health issue of our time. It will also help to ensure that patients are getting the best possible care, no matter the state in which they reside.

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Misinformation Plays Significant Role in Texas Drug Epidemic

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 9, 2017 2:22:13 PM / by RU Texas posted in Overdose, Recovery, Addiction, Addiction Treatment, Heroin Addiction, Opioid, Underreporting

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get-facts.jpgIt’s, frankly, little surprise that many healthcare organizations and state agencies would have a hard time keeping up with the glut of addiction-related fatalities consuming the United States. The reality is that this urgent and pervasive public health issue is growing faster than we, as a nation, can get our arms around it. The fact remains; however, that when inaccurately reported numbers (however unintentional) are allowed to fester and go uncorrected it has a nasty habit of dictating policy; this is a reality that the Lone Star State is finding out, first hand, as it endeavors to curb substance abuse within its borders.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released numbers that indicated Texas had among the lowest rates in the nation for heroin and opioid abuse. Data from the Houston Chronicle, however, indicates that these numbers might be a product of underreporting. There have been multiple examples of misalignment between state and county calculations that have resulted in a lowballing of the state’s overdose rates. County estimations, which are likely to be more accurate, are consistently higher than state calculations. Texas is just one of many states in which underreporting and misinformation further clouds the full scope of the addiction problem.

Why is it so important that these numbers are accurately reported? In addition to the obvious answer of making sure every human life is recognized and the state has a full and accurate picture of the public health matters affecting it, these figures translate into real and tangible resources to help counties fight drug and alcohol abuse in their communities. Lower estimates tend to get lower attention and subsequently lower prevention and treatment resources. For its own part, Texas is looking at the discrepancies in numbers and how to best ensure consistency of reporting at the state and local levels, going forward.

With heroin and opioid rates posing such an urgent threat to communities all over the country, it’s easy for certain locales to get lost in the shuffle. One of the best ways to accurately assess the full scope of threat and the progress we’re making to curb it as a nation, from year to year is to make sure everyone is doing their part to deliver the right information. We’ve seen what happens when inaccurate data is allowed to govern the addiction care conversation in this country, and it’s partly responsible for the escalation we have seen in recent decades.

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Aetna Loosens Restrictions on Addiction Treatment Coverage

[fa icon="calendar'] Feb 28, 2017 10:23:15 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Opioid Addiction, Addiction Treatment, Insurance, Aetna, Healthcare

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And now a bit of good news for addicts and their families who are concerned about treatment access in this uncertain healthcare climate. Leading health insurance provider Aetna recently announced plans to remove what has been critical roadblock for those seeking coverage for medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. The change will be implemented starting in March and will apply to all Aetna’s private insurance plans. Aetna, who is one of the world’s largest health insurance companies, is the latest provider to announce such plants over the past few months. Anthem and Cigna also announced looser restrictions on MAT with more and more Americans succumbing to overdose.

Specifically, Aetna will remove the requirement that doctors seek approval before prescribing medications, such as the buprenorphine-based Suboxone, to eligible candidates. Opponents of this requirement, called “prior authorization”, argue that it creates unnecessary delays in access to a potentially life-saving recovery resource. Mounting pressure, including findings from an investigation from New York’s Attorney General regarding coverage rates for addicts, compelled Cigna and Anthem to take this significant step. Aetna is the latest company to follow suit. With Medicaid expansions that make addiction and mental treatment more accessible facing uncertain futures in all states, it’s unclear what lasting impact this move will have or how many other insurance providers will follow.

In 2015, the United States saw record opioid overdose rates, eclipsing the all-time high of the prior year. Doctors at the ground level of this issue have expressed considerable frustration with the barriers that patients face when they’re ready to enter treatment. Addiction is a time-sensitive issue, and it’s rare that patients take the initiative to seek treatment on their own; when they do, it’s important that they have a clear and expedited path to treatment. Doctors have relayed powerful anecdotal evidence that if a patient is forced to wait for treatment, even for a few hours, there’s a chance they’re not coming back. Being forced to wait can permanently discourage them from seeking help.

Medications like Suboxone and Vivitrol have become a game-changing resource for eligible patients struggling with opioid and alcohol addiction. Looser restrictions on their dispensation from insurance providers represent one step forward in striking a balance between responsible prescription practices and proactive solutions for long-term treatment. With the epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin addiction claiming more and more Americans each year, it’s critical that vulnerable patients have every resource possible when endeavoring to overcome their dependency.

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Can Ketamine Be Used to Cure Alcohol Addiction?

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 30, 2017 9:00:26 PM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery, Addiction Treatment, Alcoholism, Ketamine

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It’s been demonstrably effective in the treatment of depression; but can the tranquilizer ketamine be effective in the treatment alcohol addiction? Researchers at University College London believe so and are moving forward in an effort to prove it. Project leader Ravi Das and fellow researchers are working to determine whether or not ketamine can rewrite memories in order to reduce cravings and diminish the chance of relapse. Ketamine blocks a receptor in the brain that is instrumental in the formation of memories. Das and his colleagues are testing ketamine’s applicability in the treatment alcohol use disorder (AUD) by creating memories and then blocking them.

The point of the exercise is to rewrite memories that are tied to alcohol consumption and then block them. The University College London study will feature about 90 participants who are heavy drinkers. Researchers will trigger an alcohol memory by placing a beer in front of participants and then surprising them in order to interrupt the memory. Participants will then be given either a high dose of ketamine or a placebo, and monitored for a year to see if there are any changes in drinking patterns. Above all, they are hoping this technique can help mitigate relapse for alcoholism, which some studies indicate are as high as 90 percent.

Despite a sound basis for further investigation, Das and company are expecting pushback from detractors of ketamine due to its long-standing reputation as a recreational drug. Although medication-assisted treatment is gaining more and more ground in the recovery communities, ketamine is still a controversial and, for many facilities, a non-starter. Research into memory-based addiction treatment has also made its way across the pond to the University of South Carolina, where researchers are looking into it for tobacco smokers. Clinical uses for ketamine include the treatment chronic pain, anesthesia, sedation in intensive care and memory loss.

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Recovery Unplugged Featured in El Paso Inc. Article

[fa icon="calendar'] Jan 24, 2017 9:04:17 AM / by RU Texas posted in Recovery Unplugged, Music Therapy, Addiction Treatment, El Paso Inc.

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elpasoinclogo.png Recovery Unplugged had the honor of being featured on the popular Texas News and Lifestyle website last week. The piece highlighted the Recovery Unplugged treatment approach and the positive impact of music in addiction treatment. It also included first-hand insight from some of our very own staff and former patients. Recovery Unplugged was honored and grateful to be featured in the piece, and we look forward to illustrating the innumerable benefits of music in addiction care when and wherever possible and appropriate. As pioneers of music-based treatment, we welcome any and all opportunities to further discuss its successes, evolution and future.

One of the most important and pertinent aspects of the piece was the idea that music-based healing is for everyone, regardless of their musical background. Each person has their own special relationship with music, whether it’s simply enjoying or being moved by their favorite song, or writing and performing songs of their own. Music therapy is an ideal and clinically proven way to harness the healing powers of this art-form to break down emotional barriers and facilitate healing on a deep level, where simple conversation very often falls short. The article also discussed the critical importance of customized addiction treatment for every type of patient, whether they seek music-based care or any other type of modality.

More and more treatment facilities are utilizing deeper levels of music therapy as part of their rehab programs. Whether their patients are suffering from anxiety, depression or any other type of co-occurring mental health issue, music has proven to be an effective relief agent in many cases. The Recovery Unplugged team remains committed to the growth and innovation of the music-treatment paradigm, as we help more and more patients to heal in their own way through this amazing therapy.

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