WASHINGTON, June 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and President of The Dream Corps Van Jones are partnering to launch Advocates for Opioid Recovery (AOR), a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking down the barriers to proven, effective, evidence-based treatments that can reduce death and suffering from opioid addiction.
Nearly 50,000 people died of accidental drug overdose in 2014, and of these, close to 29,000 were opioid related. Most people living with addiction are not receiving treatment, and when they are, they aren't receiving the most effective care. Treatment with medication is dramatically more effective than behavioral counseling alone yet less than 50% are receiving this medication.
Recent scientific breakthroughs have shown that opioid addiction is a chemically-based, DNA-driven disease, to which people are genetically predisposed. Recovery medications like buprenorphine and naltrexone significantly reduce opioid cravings and the risk of fatal overdose, while moving those with opioid dependence to stable, long term recovery. Unfortunately, significant regulatory, legislative and ideological barriers prevent people from accessing this treatment.
"Once again, government bureaucracy is out of touch with reality and tragically behind science when it comes to addressing the opioid crisis," said Newt Gingrich, an AOR founding advisor. "The current system is in need of an urgent overhaul to deal with this epidemic. It's tragic that these obsolete policy barriers have been in place this long."
Compounding the opioid addiction and overdose issue is that only three percent of US physicians are authorized to treat opioid addiction with recovery medications, and those who can are limited to treating only 100 patients. Additionally, recovery medications are out of reach for many due to limitations under many insurance policies.
"I know firsthand that long term recovery is real, achievable, and life-changing. In my early days of recovery, the right combination of medication assisted treatment, counseling, and social support helped me immensely," said former U.S Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI), founder of The Kennedy Forum and an AOR founding advisor. "It's time to put politics aside. The opioid overdose crisis is bigger than empty partisan labels —it must be a national priority to fix, once and for all, the injustice of keeping treatment from people who need it and want it. No one who seriously wants treatment should die on a waiting list to see a doctor, or waiting for a decision from their insurance company."
Opioid addiction touches all sectors of society, and is having a drastic, negative impact on overall health and mortality rates. At the same time, it's not an issue confined to the realm of public health. The criminal justice system needs to adopt new strategies for addressing this crisis by moving away from incarceration to drug courts and other alternatives to incarceration that will divert nonviolent offenders to treatment services that include life-saving medications.
"The criminal justice system has perpetuated a bias against treating addiction as a real disease that needs real treatment options, including medication. Studies show recovery medication helps people hold jobs, avoid street crime and stay out of jail," said Van Jones, an AOR founding advisor. "Drug courts that seriously want to help people stay engaged as productive members of society should be encouraging use of this medication, not prohibiting it, as some still do."
Advocates for Opioid Recovery will be conducting an aggressive media campaign to raise awareness of the barriers to appropriate addiction treatment with medication and promote solutions that improve access such as increasing the number of providers who are able to prescribe recovery medication and raising the cap on the number of patients' providers can treat with recovery medication. AOR will help policymakers, government officials, insurance companies and other influencers understand how bias and stigma have led to disastrous policies that discriminate against people living with addiction and deny access to treatment.
Join a Facebook Live Q&A with Newt Gingrich and Patrick Kennedy today at 4:00 P.M. ET, https://www.facebook.com/newtgingrich/.
A 2014 comprehensive review of recovery studies of buprenorphine maintenance treatment from 1995-2012 found a universal positive impact on treatment retention and illicit opioid use.
- Individuals given buprenorphine were over twice as likely to complete a six-month recovery trial compared to those given a placebo. In that same study, 40% of the patients receiving buprenorphine did not relapse, compared to 28% of those who received a placebo.
- Of all individuals living with opioid addiction in 2012, only 40% received treatment with medication.
About Advocates for Opioid Recovery
Advocates for Opioid Recovery is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing a science-based, evidence-based treatment system that can reduce death and suffering from opioid addiction, and produce more long-term opioid addiction survivors who are positively engaged in their families and communities. For more information visit www.opioidrecovery.org. Follow us on Twitter @AORecovery.
Contact: Meghan Swope, firstname.lastname@example.org, 814-591-5664
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SOURCE Advocates for Opioid Recovery