When we discuss treatment for what is now recognized as substance abuse disorder by the experts, multiple forms of treatment have been used for many decades. Traditionally, the most common treatment and supportive care has come in the form of behavioral modes such as substance abuse counseling by social workers, psychologists, etc., and peer support models, e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and, more recently, Celebrate Recovery (CR), a behavioral/Christian-based approach to treatment and supportive care.

Of recent, another mode of treatment has come back into the scene on a large scale basis:  Medically Assisted Treatment or M.A.T..  M.A.T. is nothing new; it has been around for many decades.  M.A.T. is commonly used for the purpose of reducing the impact of withdrawal so the person is more likely to seek treatment (because it can make the process less painful) and be successful.  A known side effect of these drugs is that they themselves are highly addictive.  In recent decades, an unethical, counterproductive, and potentially dangerous form of medical “treatment” has become common in Kentucky and has made its way into the courts.  

This counterproductive form of so-called medically assisted “treatment” goes something like this: the “patient” seeks substance abuse treatment from a medical provider; the provider then prescribes what are essentially legal, laboratory-created drugs that trigger the human brain in much the same way as certain illicit drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine; then the patient is told they will likely have to remain on this “medication” for years, if not the rest of their life.

When it comes to the use of M.A.T. drugs, the potential for unethical behavior by medical providers is very high. Many  pharmacists and doctors (and their employers) have been prosecuted or have lost their professional licenses due to their involvement in allowing, if not ordering, their patients to be and remain on high levels of M.A.T. drugs for long periods of time for the purpose of financial gain.  

While M.A.T. can be used to help make the recovery process easier, less painful and safer, it should not become just a legal substitute for the illegal drugs the client was using to begin with. The core purpose of addiction treatment is not to just get a person to stop using illicit substances, it is to provide them with tools they need in order to resist the urge to use any substance (legal or illegal) to single-handedly cope with their pain, whether it be physical or psychological in nature.  

(It should be noted that persons suffering with extreme physical pain are not the subject of this article; those individuals may need to take pain medication(s) for an extended period of time to cope with severe physical pain.)

As Kentucky, through its court system, legislature and executive branch continue to move forward into the foreboding task of addressing this massive issue, we must use great caution. So-called treatment that, in actuality, does more to provide profits to the providers than to assist those suffering from addiction, are clearly not the answer.  The problem is that what is clear from a distance can become fuzzy where those who stand to benefit from abuse of these treatments inject themselves into the legislative, executive, and judicial processes.  I ask for your prayers and support for ethical and effective treatments and providers to win out in the battle of treatment verses profit.  

If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, there are many forms of effective treatment now available in our area.  Feel free to contact my office for more information at (270) 759-2434.

I look forward to seeing you next time At the Corner of Justice & Grace.

Jamie Jameson is the Chief Judge for Kentucky’s 42nd Circuit Court.  Judge Jameson serves as Purchase Region representative to the Ky. Circuit Judge’s Association’s Legislative Committee, a member of that Association’s Education Committee, and as appointed member of the Ky. Continuing Judicial Education Committee.

Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.

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