Addiction Treatment and Drug Policy in Times of COVID

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The COVID-19 pandemic has come with unique challenges for different people. And those battling addictions have not been spared. While people contend with this pandemic, addictions are not taking a break. However, response to this crisis by the U.S government has made getting treatment for drug addiction easier. 

President Donald Trump’s administration declared the national emergency in March. This declaration led to the suspension of the federal law that requires patients to visit physicians in person to be prescribed drugs for quelling withdrawal symptoms. Consequently, patients can get prescriptions through a video conference or phone call with their doctor. 

This is good news because it means an addict can be directed to a doctor that will prescribe a treatment for them by just calling the addiction hotline number Nebraska. A drug hotline is a phone number that is managed by experienced addiction treatment experts. These provide the information that addicts or their loved ones need to receive treatment for drug addiction. However, experts that man hotline numbers do not provide treatment or prescriptions over the phone. A person should go through a treatment facility or doctor to get treatment. 

The Long-Awaited Move 

Addiction treatment experts have called for this change over the years. That’s because the change would increase access to treatment by patients in different regions. That’s because the country has been experiencing a shortage of physicians that are eligible to provide medication-assisted treatments’ prescriptions. 

In January, a federal report established that 40% of counties in the U.S do not have even one healthcare provider that has been approved to provide buprenorphine prescriptions. This is the Suboxone active ingredient.

In 2018, there was a law calling for new drug policy. However, these regulations were not finalized. It’s only recently that healthcare providers and insurers started to help addicts get medications and therapy without leaving their homes despite the initiative made before the pandemic. Many people hope that these changes will be permanent. 

Some Facilities have Been Practicing Telemedicine 

Several years before the issuance of the emergency regulations, some counseling providers were practicing telemedicine. This entailed calling an addiction helpline in Nebraska to seek counseling services. Essentially, some facilities and doctors were providing counseling and treatment for opioid addiction via telemedicine. Nevertheless, they could not prescribe the initial addiction medication. Nevertheless, they allowed patients to renew their prescriptions for specific drugs for dealing with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. What’s more, they could also plan for drug-testing and meetings with counselors for regular therapy sessions. 

Some professionals have even gone online to connect with individuals and doctors for weekly counseling sessions. This brings convenience, especially in the times of COVID-19 when people are being urged to avoid physical contact or meetings. 

Many addicts have excuses for not doing stuff. They may argue that they didn’t do certain things because they went for a group meeting. However, this is no longer the case because an addict could be in the living room, turn on the computer, and attend a group meeting. 

Increasing Medication-Assisted Treatment 

Changing the drug policy has led to increased medication-assisted treatment in times of COVID-19. In California, the telemedicine option has increased uptake for medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction from 16% to 30%. This is also the case in 9 other states. And, this option will most likely become increasingly common as people continue to maintain social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many patients are calling the drug help hotline in Nebraska requesting guidelines for undergoing treatment without necessarily visiting treatment centers.  What’s more, telemedicine has enabled up to 90% of patients to remain in treatment after one month. 65% of patients have even remained in treatment after 3 months. These percentages are higher than those of traditional treatment. 

It’s, therefore, not surprising that several insurers in the U.S are now covering telemedicine services for recovering addicts. Nevertheless, virtual care comes with several downsides. 

The Downsides of Virtual Care 

Addiction treatment providers and therapists worry about their engagement level with patients. They are also worried about their ability to gauge the sincerity of a person and their motivation level by just looking at them on camera or listening to them on the phone. 

Essentially, it’s not easy to determine whether a person is honest when they call an addiction hotline free in Nebraska requesting assistance. However, experts predict that telemedicine services will continue to grow and broaden access to addiction and mental health counseling. 

Patients that have difficulties finding doctors near them can always access help through telemedicine. And, this can always be the starting point for the addiction treatment process. But, a physician is required to have a federal license before they start prescribing controlled substances like Suboxone that help patients overcome opioid addiction. What’s more, physicians are allowed to write limited prescriptions every month. And, some doctors are hesitant to get this qualification. 

Research has shown that patients are likely to continue telemedicine treatment the same way they would continue in-person care for substance abuse. However, no study has determined the effectiveness of any of these types of therapy. 

Telemedicine has its limits. Additionally, not everybody will find it ideal for them, especially patients that need intensive care in an inpatient facility or those without reliable internet access. Therefore, a digital recovery program is required to ensure the effectiveness of telemedicine for addiction treatment. 

The popularity of telemedicine has been growing over the years. That’s because it provides a unique way of undergoing treatment discreetly. However, some people are reluctant to use telemedicine for addiction treatment. 

Some people have expressed that allowing physicians to prescribe Suboxone and other controlled substances without physical meetings with patients can increase fraud risk. This is a genuine concern because rogue providers are already making money from this and they are doing it stealthily over the internet. 

Nevertheless, it’s important to compare risks with the huge benefits of using telemedicine to expand treatment. Physicians can also use emotional and physical signs during video conferences to determine whether they should prescribe medications to patients.

The Bottom Line 

Calling an addiction hotline number in Nebraska is one of the many ways to use telemedicine to address the substance abuse problem. Several physicians and addiction treatment facilities are using telemedicine to keep patients in treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some people have experienced concerns about increasing fraud risk, the benefits of telemedicine outweigh the risks. Insurers have also started to cover telemedicine services for addiction patients. Thus, telemedicine will most likely continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic.