Telemedicine is now mainstream. Surprisingly, however, one area in which telemedicine has not been used to its fullest capability is drug addiction treatment. As you are aware, the country is in the midst of an addiction crisis. The statistics are daunting:
- Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US;
- From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses;
- A majority of drug overdose deaths (six in ten) involve an opioid;
- Deaths from prescription opioids have more than quadrupled since 1999.
- More than 1,000 people are treated each day in emergency departments for not using opioids as prescribed;
- About 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggle with addiction; and
- Overdose rates were highest among people aged 25 to 54 years.
Adding to the woeful statistics are the fairly dismal rates of addiction recovery—assuming that such recovery services are even available. Relapse rates are over 50 percent for certain drugs, and higher for opioid addicts. According to one survey, almost 9 percent of the population needs treatment but only 1 percent actually receives it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that effective substance abuse treatment combines treatment medications with behavioral therapy—and traditional treatment is limited by the availability of treatment professionals who often are not available outside of in-person care settings. Continue reading…