OSWEGO — The Opioid Treatment Program at Farnham Family Services in Oswego this week began to offer on-site administration of buprenorphine, commonly known by the brand name Suboxone, and the expansion is being hailed as a triumphant step for medication-assisted treatment in the county.
Previously, the Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) offered methadone assisted treatment. Farnham also offers buprenorphine prescribing in the outpatient program.
“For anybody that’s admitted to the outpatient program, we can provide Suboxone,” said Farnham’s Executive Director Eric Bresee. “We now have a physician’s assistant on staff, so if people are coming in and looking to get help, they can get admitted and get Suboxone if that’s something they need to help them on the road to stability.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advocates medicated-assisted treatment for the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Medication-assisted treatment is a form of harm reduction, a public health philosophy that seeks to reduce the harms associated with drug use and ineffective drug policies.
SAMHSA seeks to raise awareness and decrease concerns about common misconceptions of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) approaches.
“A common misconception,” said a SAMHSA statement, “is that [medication-assisted treatment] substitutes one drug for another. Instead, these medications relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body.”
Programs like the one offered at Farnham provides a “safe and controlled” level of medication to overcome opioid dependency. SAMHSA cites research that shows “when provided at the proper dose, medications used in MAT have no adverse effects on a person’s intelligence, mental capability, physical functioning or employability.”
Bresee said he saw “a lot of people get to the point where they realize they need a higher level of treatment.”
“When people are seen misusing drugs, we get you to Farnham and into the OTP so you can get a higher level of support,” he said. “But we see outpatient dosing as a critical piece of the puzzle as far as MAT.”
Harbor Lights, another chemical dependency service provider in Oswego County, also refers out for those with opioid use disorder for access to potentially life-saving medications. “When someone with a significant opiate history has been struggling to maintain sobriety, we might recommend Suboxone or Vivitrol or methadone to augment their treatment,” said Harbor Lights Program Director Sarah Banach. “It’s been proven that verbal therapy, individual counseling, group therapy meetings and self help meetings all work well in conjunction with medications to help people maintain their sobriety. Meds alone don’t always work, and therapy alone doesn’t always work. The two together often work well for people.”
Both Banach and Bresee are proponents of medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence.
“It works like any other med, truly,” said Banach. “Much like mental health medications or diabetes medicine.”
Banach says she encourages people struggling to seek treatment. “Harbor Lights is a judgment free zone,” she said. “And we’re here to help realistically. Treatment is highly confidential, and there is no stigma.”