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Bellingham clinic fighting opioid addiction with new treatment

(AP)

A clinic in Bellingham is using an approach to treat opioid addiction in a way that’s showing very promising results. It’s called medication assisted treatment, and it’s being used at Ideal Option Clinic, which Whatcom county officials consider as part of their fight against addiction.

Addiction medication physicians Dr. Martin Dubek and Dr. Jeff Allgaier joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss the program.

“Medication assisted treatment is really the use of both medications — which helps folks with their cravings and withdrawals and helps them to not go out and use illicit drugs — in combination with both counseling and other psychosocial services,” said Dr. Jeff Allgaier.

“That integrated model has been proven to be very beneficial and evidenced base for many, many folks.”

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The drugs being used to help include Suboxone, which helps ease the craving during withdrawals for a better recovery, and Vivitrol, a complete opiate blocker which helps offset some of the cravings and withdrawals as well.

Along with the medication, there’s also the psychological component that helps the patient navigate a path out of addiction.

“We certainly help guide them through the process and figure out how much support they actually will engage with, whether it’s mental health counseling, whether it’s chemical dependency counseling, or whether it’s what we refer to as IOP (intensive outpatient program),” said Dr. Martin Dubek.

Last year, opioid deaths were the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington. The governor’s proposed 2019-21 budget calls for $10.7 million for prevention and an additional $19.3 million for treatment and recovery efforts.

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This medication assisted treatment is a new approach medical professionals are taking in response to the opioid crisis, which is more balanced than previous methods.

“This has really been something that has just over the last few years became the standard of care in addiction treatment,” said Dr. Allgaier. “What we have historically done over the last 50 years or so is really not focused on medication, except for methadone. But we focused more on counseling and twelve step, which solves part of the battle, but it doesn’t solve the physiologic changes, the body changes that happen when folks are addicted to opioids.”

“Without the medication and with just psychological care alone there’s over a 90 percent failure rate. So when you add medications to that the success rate is much, much higher.”

Medication assisted treatment helps replace one lifestyle for another

While there’s been resistance to using medication to help solve addiction, Dr. Allgaier says that doing so enables addicts to change the lifestyle that once went along with their opioid addiction.

“There has been somewhat of a philosophical and understandable resistance to it, just simply because there’s an old sort of reasonable saying that says, well all you’re doing is replacing one drug for another,” he said.

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“That’s a pretty reasonable assertion, except for the fact that you’re really replacing one lifestyle for another. They’re no longer out stealing and prostituting and doing bad things, but they’re taking once a day medication, and taking care of their kids and functioning.”

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