As the need for treatment grows in areas throughout the U.S., many people suffering from heroin addiction find that they face obstacles preventing them from getting the help they need to get clean. Heroin is a particularly serious problem in New York State where it has reached a point of crisis especially among people switching from opioid painkillers to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
Unfortunately, due to the high demand for treatment, many heroin addicts are not able to get through a medicated withdrawal program. For years providers have faced major financial obstacles forcing them to turn away people seeking help at clinics if their treatment is deemed medically unnecessary.
Reimbursement and treatment are frequently denied to people in spite of their desperation for help in quitting their heroin addiction. As a result of this situation, insurers are being given more scrutiny in New York and the rules are slowly evolving to help accommodate the increasing need for heroin treatment in the area.
The Rising Problem of Opiate Addiction
Doctors treating heroin addiction are now saying that their patient load has doubled in the past decade because of the rise in rates of abuse. Instead of slowing down, the numbers have sped up in a frightening pattern without any increase in the resources available for treatment providers to help more patients.
The number of patients mixing heroin with prescription drugs has also risen from 21 percent to 64 percent since 2008. Many patients drive from hours away to receive medication from methadone clinics helping them get through withdrawal.
Methadone is necessary for many heroin addicts who fear they cannot make it through full withdrawal without the medication to ease their intense cravings and sometimes painful symptoms. Also, some believe that methadone will only substitute heroin with another addiction, doctors in methadone clinics often see firsthand how this type of withdrawal treatment can give people the chance to lead productive lives while they try to break free from their addiction.
However, getting this treatment available for everyone in need has proven challenging for many treatment programs that don’t have the finances or resources to accommodate everyone.
Limitations for Treatment
As a result of regulations, low reimbursement rates, and a growing demand for qualified nurses, treatment providers have a number of obstacles that are limiting the expansion of their services. Waiting lists for these programs continue to grow as people trying to get help are forced to wait as long as a year or more to get into a treatment clinic.
This issue has caught the attention of Congressman John Katko who has vowed to support efforts to expand access to drugs like methadone that are used to treat opiate addictions. Unfortunately, these types of efforts have so far not had enough funding to accomplish their mission in spite of their dedication to the cause of expanding treatment for addicts.
Concerns about addiction to medications like methadone or suboxone, a more recent treatment alternative, have prevented the expansion of these services in most cases. Because of the fear that patients will become addicted to the medication, providers are faced with a cap on the number of people they can treat using these methods.
As patients wait often more than a year before they are able to receive treatment, many relapses multiple times until they are able to go into recovery. Most addiction experts agree that offering people treatment immediately when they ask for help is crucial in terms of their ability to make a successful recovery. With such a large need it is important that resources are expanded to allow more people to receive the help they need to recover from heroin addiction.