Addiction Experts Criticize Maine's Opiate Bill

Maine Opiate Bill - Freedom From Addiction

This week, lawmakers in Maine heard testimony on a bipartisan plan to spend $2.4 million to combat the state’s opiate epidemic by hiring more drug enforcement agents and an equal amount on expanded treatment and recovery, Bangor Daily News reports.

But addiction specialists aren’t sold on the plan, claiming it doesn’t include money for methadone and Suboxone treatment, saying “that’s essential for any strategy to work.”

“Dr. Mark Publicker, a longtime addiction specialist who runs his own practice and who worked at the former Mercy Recovery Center, said the plan is not only weak but damaging because it doesn’t include any money for what are universally considered the most effective medications for opiate addiction: methadone and buprenorphine, commonly known as Suboxone.”

When it comes to treatment, $1 million has been allotted for a 10-bed detox center in Bangor. And it’s specifically for uninsured heroin addicts. But that, too is under fire by addiction specialists like Publicker, who finds fault with just $1 million for 10 beds out of a $2.4 million budget. “And it’s detox for only a few days,” he says, “it’s not treatment. The critical point here is that detoxification itself plays no role in the treatment of opiate addiction. We’re spending $1 million on a component of the disease that has absolutely no benefit.”

He estimates 60 to 70 people a month could undergo detox for three or four days with this program. But, without Suboxone to block the desire for opiates, any real help won’t be possible.Additionally, $800,000 will go to residential and outpatient treatment and $600,000 to peer support programs. But these amounts, too, are under the gun, with Publicker saying its not enough to do much and again pointing out how the lack of methadone and Suboxone will also decrease the impact.

But, acknowledging there’s a problem that needs to be funded in order to find a cure is a step in the right direction, everyone agrees, to a problem that is plaguing the U.S.

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