Health Secretary Tom Price Favors ‘Faith Based’ Approach To Opioid Crisis

Not medicine, God: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price recommends faith in God as the solution to the current opioid crisis.

Price, a medical doctor, claims faith-based treatment is better than medication-assisted treatment when treating opioid addiction, despite a great deal of scientific evidence to the contrary.

Price, while touring communities that have been hit especially hard by painkiller and heroin overdoses, spoke out in favor of faith-based treatment programs while expressing disdain for science-based. medication-assisted treatment.

Charlotte Gazette-Mail reports:

Asked about drug treatment options, Price touted faith-based programs while showing less support for medication-assisted programs in which addicts are weaned off heroin with other opioids like Suboxone and methadone.

“If we’re just substituting one opioid for another, we’re not moving the dial much,” he said. “Folks need to be cured so they can be productive members of society and realize their dreams.”

Reporting on the story Mother Jones notes:

The secretary’s comments directly oppose literature from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, a division of HHS. “The goal of medication-assisted treatment is to recover from addiction,” reads “Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction: Facts for Families and Friends.” The literature goes on: “It does NOT replace one addictive drug with another. It provides a safe, controlled level of medication to overcome the use of a problem opioid.”

Business Insider elaborates, pointing out that the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs Price rejects are the “gold standard” for overcoming opioid addiction:

Considered by many experts to be the “gold standard” for overcoming opioid addiction, MAT uses prescription medications like buprenorphine or methadone to reduce cravings, allowing patients to work on the underlying issues leading to their substance use, without the constant pressure of withdrawal.

Studies in 2008 and 2011 conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that treatment using Suboxone, the most commonly prescribed version of buprenorphine, showed a “marked reduction” in drug use for participants. Approximately 50% of participants in the 2011 study reduced their substance use during extended Suboxone treatment. The success rate dropped to 8.6% once it was discontinued.

Because of its promising results, MAT has gained bipartisan support in statehouses, on Capitol Hill, and in scientific, medical, and treatment circles.

Business Insider continues: 

It is not inconceivable to imagine Price recommending shifting funds allocated for MAT to faith-based treatments, if he thinks it is the best treatment option available.

Opioids, unlike many other substances, fundamentally change a person’s thought and behavior patterns. Almost all faith-based treatments are centered around achieving abstinence, but many addicts’ physical dependence on opioids makes abstinence incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Countless users relapse or skip out on treatment, no matter what stage of recovery they’re at.

And when people relapse, they often die.

Bottom line: Tom Price is a deluded religious extremist if he believes faith based program are superior to medication-assisted treatment programs grounded in medical science.

More important, the fact that Tom Price is the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary means that he has the power to direct funds and policy away from science approved opioid treatment programs in favor of faith based programs based in ignorance and religious superstition. That power makes him a very dangerous, deluded religious extremist.

Tom Price (Image via Flickr)
Tom Price (Image via Flickr)
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