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Is Government Regulation Keeping Americans From Getting Addiction Care?

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Suboxone is one of the medications that is prescribed alongside counseling as part of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

American doctors have had, for a generation, a treatment that’s proven to work for addictions to prescription painkillers, heroin, and similar street drugs. Overdoses on these opioid drugs killed more than 47,000 Americans in 2017. Yet the American government regulates that lifesaving therapy—called medication-assisted treatment, or MAT—in a totally unscientific way, which may be part of why it’s not available in the majority of doctor‘s offices or addiction treatment centers in the United States.

That’s a conclusion of a new report, published on Wednesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a non-profit formed in Abraham Lincoln’s time to advise Congress on scientific and medical matters. “The issue is not that there should not be regulation. The issue that we are pointing out is that regulations as they exist aren’t supported by evidence,” says Scott Steiger, a primary care doctor who sees addiction patients in San Francisco, and one of 14 addiction researchers and treatment providers who contributed to the National Academies report.

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