Opioid addiction treatment for young people
Addiction affects people of all ages, including children. However, doctors have not focused adequately on medical addiction treatment for childhood opioid addiction. In fact, many experts still believe that the best treatment for addicted children is therapy without medication. Contrary to this belief, opioid addiction treatment should be comprehensive and include medication as well as therapy.
Medication is the gold standard for opioid addiction for all ages.
Unfortunately, addiction can begin at a young age. Yet, doctors are not all on the same page when it comes to proper treatment. The fact is that MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) works best, even for adolescents. So, why is it that more teens are not getting proper treatment?
The concern about long-term treatment
It is a fact that many opioid addicts will do best with long-term treatment. When the patient is a child, doctors and family members worry about the possibility of life-long treatment with a medication such as Suboxone. While they are right to have some concern, evidence shows that medication combined with therapy is a treatment for opioid addiction without parallel. It just works. And, in many cases, treatment will work best if continued indefinitely.
There are not enough doctors to treat young patients.
Another issue is the lack of qualified doctors prepared to treat opioid addicted teens with medication. While there are pediatricians who are credentialed to provide MAT, it is a small percentage. According to this article in philly.com, the number is around 1%. I have personally spoken to a pediatrician about this issue. He told me that even of the pediatricians he knows who prescribe suboxone treatment, they mostly treat adults as a second job in addition to their pediatric practices.
Education is the answer.
The solution to the problem is to educate both doctors and the public on the safety and proven efficacy of MAT. And, more research must be done regarding the medical treatment of addiction in young adults and children. Also, we should identify healthcare workers in the field who are already gaining experience in this area. I recommend the episode of The Rehab Podcast in which I interview Orlando Castro of Larking Hospital. Mr. Castro leads the adolescent unit at Larkin and has much experience in working with addicted children. While we have a long way to go in helping our children overcome opioid addiction, we already have the tools that we need. We just need to do the work to make these tools available to treat patients of all ages who need help in overcoming the disease of addiction.