Dr. Phillip Herschman, President, Opiate Treatment Program, CRC Health Group, At Conference on New Perspectives in Opiate Treatment
- WELCOME to today’s conference, hosted by CRC Health Group, on “New Perspectives in Treating Opiate Addiction: A San Diego Treatment Community Symposium”.
- On behalf of CRC CEO Dr. Barry Karlin, who is recovering from surgery, I want to thank everyone for coming, including some 300 state and local drug treatment specialists here today. Agenda speakers will include Mayor Jerry Sanders, Dr. Tom McLellan, Treatment Research Institute; Dr. Judith Reynolds, Narcotic Treatment Provider; Dr. Marcella Wilson, Addictionologist; Dr. Stewart Leavitt, Editor, Addiction Treatment Forum; and Ms. Rebecca Lira, Deputy Director, California Alcohol and Drug Programs. I also want to thank CRC Vice President John Peloquin who organized this conference and Vice President Kathy Sylvia. We will also have special guest and former Drug Czar, Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey.
- Why are we here: CRC Health Group is the largest chemical dependency treatment provider in the nation and in the world, treating 22,000 clients daily in over 90 facilities plus a worldwide internet treatment process through our eGetgoing division. My division, the opiate treatment program, has 50 facilities.
- Overall in the United States, there are 980,000 heroin users, but now 1.4 million Americans abuse or are dependent upon pain relievers. One of the main issues we are seeing is the regional and national crisis of addictive painkillers.
- One of our main points will be that addictive painkiller drugs are the “new heroin”. The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs reports a slight decrease in heroin abuse in recent years but an upsurge in painkillers. The National Drug Intelligence Center confirms that OxyContin and heroin are “used as substitutes for one another.” As you all know, other abused opiate prescription painkillers include Vicodin, Dilaudid, codeine, morphine and fentanyl.
- Among CRC’s 22,000 clients we treat every day, CRC has five San Diego clinics and treats 1,350 people.
- Right here in San Diego, we have been shocked to see that CRC clinics have found that painkiller admissions have exploded from 5% of cases five years ago to some 25% now-a quintupling of entries. Our local clinic directors like Home Avenue’s Bobby Stearns confront this new crisis every day now and see the personal destruction the addiction brings. We have found the same trend across the nation so this is truly a national and local crisis.
So what can we do about this?
- Addiction is a chronic disease and it often requires what all of you in this audience know so well: a comprehensive outpatient substance abuse treatment or “COSAT”. We’ll be talking about that today and new ways to provide comprehensive treatment and prevention, including new medications to counter opiate addiction. Methadone and buprenorphine are just two of the methods that must be combined with counseling and follow-on care.
- These strategies work. For every dollar spent on methadone maintenance treatment, $4-$7 is realized in economic benefits to society.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Treatment Outcomes Study, “Methadone treatment reduced patients’ heroin abuse by 70%, their criminal activity by 57%, and increased their full-time employment by 24%.”
- Likewise, buprenorphine meets a formerly largely unmet need for persons in early opioid addictions, and for detoxification from opioids. It eliminates withdrawal symptoms and can help individuals return to abstinence from drugs.
- We have to engage in creative solutions even in our prisons, which house a great portion of the drug addicted population because of the link between drugs and crime. 60% of arrestees tested positive for illegal drugs in 30 cities the last five years according to the Department of Justice. There are only six programs in the entire nation, including a new one by CRC in Albuquerque, that provide methadone to opiate addicts in prison so that they can maintain healthy lives when they come out. We need to look at methadone and buprenorphine as part of drug treatment programs in prisons and jails in San Diego and across the nation.
- Today there are 19 million regular drug abusers in the United States, according to the latest Household survey, but only 3 million are receiving treatment. We all call this the treatment gap but it is one of our own making as a nation. Everyone here in this conference is in the forefront of the solution. We are health care professionals and we must and do confront new problems as they arise.
- Before exploding opiate addiction devastates our country and society, I hope this conference motivates us all to develop new approaches to confronting the problem and to expand our efforts. This is a crisis with a solution.