The power of medication-assisted recovery (Op-Ed, Crosspost)

Dr. McDonald's op-ed piece on MSUD for recovery month, featured in several media outlets.

Dr. Chad McDonald

9/9/20233 min read


The power of medication-assisted recovery

Dr. Chad McDonald

Sep. 4, 2023

Despite living in an age of easily accessible information, there are important issues in our country where persistent gaps in awareness can be both surprising and concerning. Given that September is National Addiction Recovery Month in the United States, we have an opportunity to shed light on one issue where more information can literally save lives. Even though Connecticut is among the states struggling most severely with drug and alcohol abuse, significant numbers of individuals battling addiction and their families remain unaware of the variety of treatment options now available to aid in their recovery.

Addiction is a formidable enemy that impacts not only individuals but also their families and communities. However, there's a beacon of hope that often goes unnoticed: medications specifically designed to alleviate the struggles associated with addiction. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of these treatments that can provide critical support during the challenging journey to recovery.

The lack of widespread knowledge about medications and resources for substance use disorders can be attributed to several factors. Stigma and misconceptions often prevent open discussions about these issues, leading many to feel ashamed and misinformed about how these medications function. The medical community may lack sufficient understanding of these medications, and research in this area is not as extensive as in other domains of healthcare. Logistical hurdles such as regulatory approvals, availability, and high costs can make these medications inaccessible or unaffordable for many. And a prevailing belief that abstinence is the only acceptable form of treatment further complicates the conversation around alternative therapies. Collectively, these barriers contribute to an overall lack of awareness about potentially beneficial medications for substance use disorders.

Consider opioids, a class of drugs known for their addictive potential. Medications like buprenorphine and methadone, which can mitigate withdrawal symptoms and cravings, exist but remain hidden gems for many. These medications are akin to life jackets in the tumultuous sea of opioid addiction, enabling individuals to regain control of their lives without the constant pull of cravings.

Similarly, alcohol use disorder, another prevalent issue, can be managed with medications such as naltrexone and acamprosate. These work by altering brain chemistry, reducing the appeal of alcohol, and helping to curb the desire to drink excessively.

Despite these advances, addiction remains a pressing issue in Connecticut and the Hartford County region. According to the CDC, Connecticut will have a drug-induced mortality rate of 39.1 per 100,000 population in 2020. From 2010-2011, Connecticut was among the top ten states for rates of illicit drug dependence among individuals aged 26 and older. Additionally, in 2017-2018, Connecticut had the 4th highest prevalence of current alcohol use.

These statistics highlight the importance of recovery and the need to provide resources and support for those battling addiction. National Recovery Month offers a chance to promote understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.

As a clinician practicing at a local community health center, I cannot overstate the importance of the resources we provide in combating addiction. Our multidisciplinary approach includes medical treatment, mental health services, and community support, which are all critical components of a comprehensive recovery plan. We offer access to FDA-approved medications for addiction, counseling, and long-term support to help individuals regain control of their lives.

As a doctor, my goal is to heal and empower. It's surprising how many individuals struggling with addiction and their families are unaware of these resources and medications. This National Addiction Recovery Month, let's shed light on these lesser-known heroes: FDA-approved medications that can potentially revolutionize the battle against addiction.

Awareness is the first step. By acknowledging the effectiveness of these treatments, we can encourage those in need to seek help without hesitation or shame. We should continue to embrace the science and compassion that underlie addiction recovery, offering a brighter, medication-assisted path toward a healthier and addiction-free life.

Dr. Chad McDonald is an addiction specialist, family medicine osteopathic physician, and the Chief Medical Officer at InterCommunity , Inc.

(Featured on several media outlets including: