Measuring the states on the opioid battle; Arkansas lags on one measure | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Measuring the states on the opioid battle; Arkansas lags on one measure

Posted By on Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 9:44 AM

click to enlarge buprenorphine_versus_opioid_overdose_deaths.png
Vox has a report comparing the states on one measure of the fight against opioid addiction, the ratio of providers of a drug used to treat opioid disorder and the number of opioid deaths in a state.

As you can see from the Vox map, Arkansas turns up worse than average.

The map looks particularly at the number of buprenorphine providers in the state relative to how many opioid overdose deaths a state has. Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat opioid addiction; along with methadone and naltrexone, it’s widely considered the gold standard of care for opioid use disorder, with studies showing medications can cut the all-cause mortality rate among opioid addiction patients by half or more.

A positive note on this point appears in David Koon's extensive cover story in the Times this week on the opioid crisis in Arkansas, which has the country's second-highest prescription rate for teh drug.

Dr. Rick Smith, a psychiatrist at UAMS, talked to David Koon about, among other things, the drug regimen cited in the Vox article. He said he hoped its use would expand.

The approach that works best right now is what's called medication-assisted treatment. "The one that we're hoping works and gets widespread use in Arkansas is treatment with Suboxone," he said. "That can be done in a primary care physician's office. They have to have counseling as well as this drug in tapering doses, tapered over a number of weeks. If they're on really high doses of opioids, you have to lower the doses of opioids first, and then get them on Suboxone."
Take a look at David's article, which reports on the extensive effort underway in Arkansas to respond to the drug crisis and some signs of progress.

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