When three 13-year-old boys were sickened by the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl at a Hartford middle school on Jan. 13, it was a shocking reminder of the human toll of the opioid crisis. One of the boys later died and a sweep of the school surfaced 40 small plastic bags of the drug. Later that same day, dozens of people spoke out against a proposal to locate a methadone clinic on a commercial street on the New Haven-Hamden border. During the ongoing battle with COVID-19, there seems to be less attention being paid to opioid addiction, advocates say.
William Evans grew up in Brookfield, a high school tennis player from a family with an Ivy League pedigree. By the time he was working at his first job after college, he was addicted to opioids, spending $25,000 in less than a year and driving to Philadelphia twice a week to buy drugs on the street. Now 37, Evans hasn’t used illegal drugs since 2006. He is married and has a 3-year-old daughter, a home in Trumbull, and a sales job at a software company. He attributes his sobriety to counseling and medication to treat his addiction.
Combining medication with other forms of therapy can help people with opioid addition avoid relapse by calming cravings and managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Less than half of the privately drug addiction programs nationally offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT); and even in those programs, only one-third of patients receive MAT, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. In Connecticut, there are about 40 Medicaid providers that prescribe medication for treatment. In our podcast, sponsored by Wheeler Clinic, Dr. Robert Grillo discusses medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Increasing access to MAT is important given the extreme danger associated with relapse, says Dr. Robert Grillo, medical director for psychiatry at Wheeler Clinic.