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Treatment for opiate scourge grabs more government spotlight

A dose of heroin is prepared for injection

A dose of heroin is prepared for injection on Feb. 6, 2014, in Vermont. The states, including New York, are trying to combat the rising scourge of opiate addiction. (Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt)

After decades of research, some government policymakers still debate and agonize over what treatment works for the highly publicized scourge of opiate abuse.

Reached last week, Henry Bartlett, who directs a statewide coalition of opiate treatment programs, said in battling chronic long-term opiate addiction, “medicines like Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Vivitrol, combined with counseling, has a far greater likelihood of success than any other approach.”

“This is particularly true if the measure of success is reduction or elimination of the use of illicit opiates.  That's not just my opinion," he said, "but it has been proved over and over in peer reviewed studies in scholarly journals.  Also, this treatment can usually be done on an outpatient basis, which helps to hold down costs."

Bartlett is executive director of the Committee of Methadone Program Administrators of New York State.

Not all treatment programs funded by the state and localities follow that formula. One piece of interest recently appeared on the Voice of America Web site.

At a budget hearing last week, Arlene González-Sánchez, the state’s commissioner for alcoholism and substance abuse services, faced questioning from lawmakers on narcotics addiction, as spotlighted by actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death from an apparent heroin overdose.

Assemb.  Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) said “the prescription drug and heroin situation has exploded” and asked how her agency could react. Essentially she said it was possible some funds would be “repurposed,” with local input.

The relevant state agency website is posted here.

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