The epidemic is driving new treatment strategies for the 2 million Americans addicted to opioids.

19 Dec 2019

When she got out of jail, she headed for an Olympia clinic where a doctor is working to spread a philosophy called "medication first." The surprising approach scraps requirements for counseling, abstinence or even a commitment to recovery.


Instead, it starts with fast access to prescribed medicine that prevents withdrawal sickness. After patients start feeling better, they choose their next steps.

In St. Louis, Seattle and San Francisco, people with opioid addictions can start medication on their first day of treatment. Early research suggests the approach can change lives. But it will be a tough sell elsewhere: Nearly two-thirds of U.S. treatment centers don´t offer anti-addiction drugs and there´s resistance to easy access.

Research is beginning on the idea. In New York, 250 drug users will be enrolled at syringe exchanges. Some will be randomly assigned to get same-day bupe prescriptions and others will get standard care.

"If the older treatment philosophies were working, we wouldn´t have the problems we´re having today," said Dr. Aaron Fox, who is leading the study.

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