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Addiction Treatment Clinic Opens In Burlington

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Courtesy of The National Institute on Drug Abuse

A new addiction treatment clinic is now open in Burlington. The facility will offer medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, a somewhat controversial approach that pairs behavioral therapy with medication. Staff members behind the new center hope to counteract the stigma some drug users are facing. 

The idea behind medication-assisted treatment is to address chemical addictions so patients can get back to their lives. That's in contrast to some 12 step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, which rely heavily on personal responsibility and a higher power. Nicholas Foss is associate director for treatment services at Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services of Southeast Iowa, which is helping run the clinic.

"That's the benefit of MAT is methadone and suboxone can help really treat those two big, dangerous symptoms of opioid use disorder which are craving and withdrawal," Foss said.

With those symptoms taken care of, Foss said patients can focus on rebuilding their lives.

“That’s out of the equation for the recovery and then you can focus on the counseling a little bit better. And the person can go to work and they can function and they can be a family member and be productive in society rather than constantly getting sick," Foss said.

"The person can go to work and they can function and they can be a family member and be productive in society rather than constantly getting sick." - Nicholas Foss, Addiction Treatment Specialist

The Des Moines-based United Community Services is managing the clinic along with ADDS. Patients will be able to get counseling as well as prescriptions for methadone, suboxone and vivitrol. Each of the drugs are different and may be appropriate for patients at different points in their recovery, explained Foss.

Vivitrol blocks the effects of opioids entirely and may be more appropriate for a patient in the "maintenance state" of their recovery, and can go long periods of time without using, Foss said.

Methadone, which is itself an opioid, may be more appropriate for a patient in the early stages of their recovery. It does carry the risk of addiction and overdose, if mismanaged.

Still, a growing body of research shows MAT can help patients curb their drug use and prevent overdoses. But Foss said some still see the approach as a crutch, even recovering users.

“There is stigma around it, unfortunately. I think people really want to see people with addictions to suffer through it, go through withdrawal, get really sick and get clean, you know?" Foss said. "My question is, is that really working well right now?”

According to data from the state Department of Public Health, 180 Iowans died of an opioid overdose in 2017, compared to 20 deaths in 2000.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "it is crucial to expand access to evidence-based treatments, including medication-assisted therapy."

Foss hopes the patients in Southeast Iowa who need it will give MAT a chance.