Tag Archives: ASAM

Study Finds Obstacles and Delays to Getting Help for Substance Abuse

When patients with substance abuse disorder visit their doctor’s office or the local emergency room seeking help, finding appropriate treatment for them is challenging in many instances. Physicians and treatment center administrators shared their thoughts about the obstacles and delays to getting help in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Several issues contribute to gaps in patients getting into treatment programs, according to the study conducted by researchers at Brown University and Butler Hospital. The opioid crisis has underlined the gap between the high need for substance abuse treatment and lack of availability to programs in the US.

SAMHSA Report Reveals Shortfall in Substance Abuse Treatment

A report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that 21.7 million people living in the US need substance abuse treatment. Only 2.35 million of them receive the help they need at a facility specializing in providing this type of care. There hasn’t been much information gathered at the organizational level about the barriers to treatment for people seeking help for substance abuse disorders.

Major Obstacles and Delays in Getting Help for Substance Abuse

Researchers interviewed 59 people they referred to as “stakeholders in the treatment referral process”. These included emergency room doctors, addiction specialists, drug and alcohol treatment center staff and administrators. When the interviews were analyzed, four major ideas stood out:

1. Healthcare providers may not be fully aware of scope of treatment options.

Providers may not have the knowledge required to determine the best type of treatment for a patient. If a healthcare provider does determine the right treatment level for a patient, he must find a program that is a good match for the patient’s needs.

2. Healthcare providers have difficulty determining patient eligibility.

Each treatment center sets its own eligibility requirements, which may prevent a particular patient from receiving needed care.

3. Providers unable to find out whether treatment centers have space available.

Once a healthcare provider determines a patient needs treatment, it is challenging for the provider to find out whether the chosen center has a bed available.

4. Communication challenges make referrals from emergency room directly to a treatment bed difficult.

Often, there is a delay in starting treatment. Direct referrals, where the patient can be taken directly to the drug and alcohol treatment center, are the best approach, especially for patients needing help for opioid use disorders.

Cigna, Brandeis University and ASAM Join Forces in Treatment Research

asamLast week an announcement was issued by Cigna stating their joint research venture with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and Dr. Cindy Parks Thomas of the Schneider Institutes of Health Policy at Brandeis University’s Heller Graduate School for Social Policy and Management. The health insurance company has agreed to provide two years’ worth of claims associated with substance abuse treatment for researchers to examine the results.

With personal information removed for confidentiality, Dr. Parks Thomas and her team will work with ASAM to gauge performance measures associated with medication prescribing for opioid use and alcohol use disorders, as well as their effectiveness in treatment after withdrawal management.

“ASAM is excited to collaborate with Cigna in our work toward assuring that ASAM’s performance measures are broadly accepted and adopted in the treatment of patients with addiction,” said Dr. Corey Waller, chair of ASAM’s Performance Measures Expert Panel and Legislative Advocacy Committee. “This will encourage physicians to make significant improvements in the quality of patient care for the addiction field as well as in the health care system as a whole.”

The insurance industry has had to face the reality that legislation has mandated better coverage for substance use disorders, and rather than continuing to push back at the risk of patients’ lives, moves like this one indicate they can work smarter within the system to advocate better care and save on their bottom line.

“When it comes to substance abuse, there are not clear guidelines,” Dr. William Lopez, Cigna senior medical director for behavioral health told Forbes in an interview. “Our position is that we want to individualize the treatments and by having some guidelines that are more holistic, we will attain that goal. We want to move from volume to value.”

Individualized, holistic treatments are two of the things that Desert Cove Recovery is most proud of in our program. If you are searching for a rehab program that can work with your insurance and provide excellent treatment, contact us today.

Doctors Issue New Guidelines for Treating Opioid Addiction

doctors studyingThe medical community is immersed in the prescription painkiller epidemic in two ways. On the front end, doctors are often the ones prescribing the drugs like Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin to patients. Medical professionals are essentially the gatekeepers of prescription painkillers and often have to decide if patients are in legitimate need of medication or if they are seeking the painkillers to feed their addictions.

Additionally, doctors are also charged with treating addicts who are seeking help for their substance abuse problems. Because of this two-fold interaction with the prescription painkiller problem, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) gathered doctors from around the country to develop better policies for dealing with the painkiller epidemic.

The first problem that the group encountered was the insufficient training in addiction medicine for most doctors. While most physicians certainly understand the basic fundamentals of addiction, the nuances of treating this disease is considered a specialized form of medicine.

Doctors who are not familiar with addiction treatments often do not prescribe medication designed to help with drug withdrawals and detox, such as buprenorphine. While studies show that monitored use of drug replacement medications illicit better results in treatment, many doctors still consider this is replacing one dependency for another when used indefinitely. Suboxone is one of the most popular medications given to patients with a heroin or prescription painkiller addiction, ad currently only doctors who meet certain criteria are allowed to prescribe the medication.

Another problem that was discussed during the meeting was the lack of treatment facilities. Currently, state-run facilities oftentimes run at capacity, while private treatment centers are struggling to keep up with the demand. Doctors can contribute to the treatment problem by encouraging addicts to seek treatment, helping them locate appropriate treatment and staying up to date with the changing methods of treating addicts.

“We just don’t have enough specialty treatment facilities and expertise in this country to treat everyone. That’s why we need guidelines like this as part of a larger movement to help integrate treatment into general practice,” explained Christopher Jones from the Department of Health and Human Services.

These new guidelines are scheduled to be included in the new ASAM’s National Practice Guideline and will also be included in the CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain coming out in the near future.