Canada and the United States (U.S.) face an opioid use disorder and opioid overdose epidemic.
The most effective OUD treatment is opioid agonist therapy (OAT). It means buprenorphine (with and without naloxone) and methadone. Although federal approval for OAT occurred decades ago, in both countries, access to and use of OAT is low. Restrictive policies and complex regulations contribute to limited treatment access.
We did a non-systematic literature scan and reviewed all available policy documents. We studied and compared treatment policies and practice at the federal level in Canada vs. United States. And also at the local level in British Columbia (B.C.) vs. Oregon.
There are differences and similarities between federal and local OAT policies. This applies to access to treatment. In Canada, treatment policy control has shifted from federal to provincial authorities. But in the U.S., federal authorities maintain primary control of treatment regulations. Local OAT health insurance coverage policies differed between B.C. and Oregon. While B.C. had 5 treatment options, Oregon had only 2 OAT options with some limitations.
Relaxation of special federal regulatory policies
The Canadian and U.S. federal OAT policies differ. So do the local OAT access and coverage policies in B.C. and Oregon. And it’s also because of the relaxation of special federal OAT regulatory controls in Canada. Our paper also highlights the complicating contributions and likely policy solutions. For example, the prescription regime and drug control regime within the drug policy sub-domain. Or, the constitutional rights within the broader policy domain.
U.S. policy makers and health officials could consider adopting Canada’s regulatory policy approach to expand treatment access.
Better access mitigates the harms of the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic.
Reference: Priest, K. C., Gorfinkel, L., Klimas, J., Jones, A. A., Fairbairn, N., & McCarty, D. (2019). Comparing Canadian and United States opioid agonist therapy policies. Int J Drug Policy. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.01.020
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also enjoy reading about the role of treatment monitoring via drug testing:
Is drug court meeting the need of the most vulnerable people who use drugs? What is the drug court judge’s hardest decision? What is social detox? How voluntary is drug court treatment?
November 8th, The Association for Multidisciplinary Education and Research in Substance use and Addiction (AMERSA) met for 42nd time in San Francisco, CA. These, and other questions, pondered five AMERSA speakers at the Thursday’s Interdisciplinary panel session.
Meeting the Need: Collaborative Justice and Treatment.
(Interdisciplinary panel, Thursday, November 8th, 2018, 10:15 – 11:45 am)
The panel was presented by:
Judge Eric Fleming, JD – San Francisco Collaborative Courts
Lisa Lightman, MA – Collaborative Courts, San Francisco Superior Court;
Angelica Almeida, PhD – San Francisco Department of Public Health;
Linda Wu, MSW, LCSW – San Francisco Department of Public Health;
Charles Houston – San Francisco Department of Public Health;
Drug Court Judge’s hardest choice.
Judge Eric Fleming, JD
The court calls people who have addictions participants, not defendants. Among others, the key role is to listen as a judge and to show respect. The hardest decision is to decide who’s going to be terminated; terminating very young people is the hardest. Some people have been fighting addiction for 20 years, but not making enough progress. This raises a question: What is enough progress?
It is one of the most important courts in San Francisco, they devoted a chief to it – not just someone pushing them through the system. The court takes high risk clients, those who haven’t done well in previous programs, facing significant punishment.
They understand that there are layers to the individuals, case can be dismissed if it’s the first case, but not the fourth case. If anything happens the system can send them to jail, but it doesn’t; instead, they talk to them and they listen – give them numerous chances. Relapse is considered as part of the process – if judge understands that, it’s good for the client.
The graduation is pretty awesome, it wasn’t easy for anyone. The judge oversees the ceremony, starts with positive remarks, and then problems. I’m proud of you as a judge, I hope you learned from me, because I learned from you. The judge concluded with a story about a young female user, 22-year old, that he had to terminate, before the termination, he made a couple of phonecalls to make sure that she had a place to go when he terminated her.
Where does transitional youth belong?
Angelica Almeida, PhD – San Francisco Department of Public Health
Some of the core functions of the drug court system are: (1) Making sure that the services were coordinated, mental health and addiction behavioral health. (2) Trying to keep people in the least restrictive settings by intervening early.
Sometimes, it is a challenge of being a harm reduction city but working in a court that is historically abstinence based. The drug court is offering outpatient and intensive outpatient services. Also, low threshold services – medication assisted treatment.
Harm reduction principles are really what brings people to treatment; not judging them also makes a big difference. Thinking about how they work with transitional age youth, which don’t quite fit to children or adult services, is still evolving. System made to work with adults, really older adults. The transitional age youth drops out of services too much. Next step after residential treatment is always the hard piece.
Sobriety doesn’t take a certain number of days.
Linda Wu, MSW, LCSW.
Drug court treatment center has now become a civil service organisation. It is Co-located with community justice and violence intervention programs. It utilizes onsite urinalysis testing, all observed. Four levels of treatment graduation, graduation rate is 20% but 6 months of sobriety required, also housing and income or training – “you can’t be sober if that’s all you’re working on.” After graduation the case manager can help them even after the case is over, because they are part of dept of public health. Clients making significance progress towards recovery despite ongoing use, finding housing or using less harmful drugs such as cannabis. To be able to offer some choices (voluntary program) is really important and confidence-building.
Challenges of drug courts are many. Clients look at the treatment in terms of their sentence – sometimes, they ask how many days I have to serve? Sobriety doesn’t take a certain number of days.
There is a continuous discussion between harm reduction versus abstinence; it’s challenging at times to find the balance between client centered treatment and also making recommendations to the court. One of the ways they make recommendations to the court is through the UA (commitment, process).
Staff is sometimes feeling pressured to become enforcers because they need to write the court notes for court. It’s very different than writing clinical reports. Clinical note is very different from court note. That takes away the awareness from the what am I (staff) doing – to what are you (client) doing. Lack of community resources in a resource-rich city because lack of space (beds) and big stigma of working in drug services.
When change came over him
Charles Houston – public health.
Mr Houston, once a drug court participant – now working for the city and county, as a family liaison – spoke about how important drug court is. He was running (there was a warrant), but then change came over him. He called the court himself. They asked him, do you want to try it – drug court? Judge reviewed monthly progress, fostered accountability. They showed him a different way, the strengths that he had, the ability to make change.
While drug courts benefit certain groups of persons who use drugs, the jury is still out there when judging their overall effectiveness and organisation. Yes, treatment is voluntary but court mandated – the other option is jail.
AMERSA – what’s in the name?
AMERSA, formerly known as the association for medical education and research in substance abuse was recently renamed. Now it is The Association for Multidisciplinary Education and Research in Substance use and Addiction. The association’s mission is to improve health and well-being through interdisciplinary leadership in substance use education, research, clinical care and policy. Text taken from www.amersa.org
If you enjoyed reading about this year’s conference, you may like to read my notes from the previous years:
39th meeting in Washington, DC, November 5th, 2015
38th meeting in San Francisco, CA, November 4th, 2014
New research from the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) suggests applying easy and effective tool to identify patients at high risk of going into withdrawal, in efforts to modernize alcohol detox. In a study published in the August issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of American Medical Association, BCCSU researchers used data from approximately 71,295 persons taking part in 14 scientific studies to predict which patient will develop serious complications, including seizures and delirium.
Which patient will go into severe alcohol withdrawal?
From the press release by British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (Aug 28, 2018):
(Text taken from http://www.bccsu.ca/news-releases/)
From: Will This Hospitalized Patient develop Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?: The Rational Clinical Examination Systematic Review. JAMA (In Press) JAMA Network: jama.jamanetwork.com
If you’re interested in alcohol, read more about my alcohol research here.
For more information about the study or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Kevin Hollett, BC Centre on Substance Use
Systematic reviews are the cream of the research crop. Those who understand their value thrive at an opportunity to meet the review authors at scientific conferences. This year, the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) in San Diego featured several important reviews. Here’s a listing of all the posters presenting reviews from the session on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018.
Non-fatal overdose prevalence among people who inject drugs Samantha Colledge (June 11, 2018);
Prescription drug monitoring programs on nonfatal and fatal drug overdoses David Fink;
Limited inclusion of women in functional neuroimaging studies of opioid-use disorder Hestia Moningka;
Women’s prescription drug misuse Bridgette Peteet;
Gender differences in HIV, anti-HCV and HBsAg prevalence among people who inject Janni Leung;
Case for hospital teams in treatment of opioid use disorders Kelsey Priest;
Addiction-related characteristics of substances users in harm reduction settings Charlotte Kervran;
STDs and injecting
Extremely low HIV incidence among PWID: Terminology, high/middle income settings, methodology, and addressing new outbreaks Don Des Jarlais;
Use of opioids and stimulants by people who inject drugs Amy Peacock;
Factors associated with uptake or willingness to use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among people who inject drugs Yohansa Fernández;
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people who inject drugs? Angela Bazzi;
Cannabis and cannabinoids for the treatment of people with chronic non-cancer pain conditions Emily Stockings;
Medical marijuana laws and adolescent marijuana use in the US Aaron Sarvet;
Does liberalization of cannabis policy influence adolescents’ levels of use? Maria Melchior;
Clinical and toxicological profile of NBOMESs Nino Marchi;
Sensation-seeking personality trait and its association to drug seeking behavior in adolescents Thiago Fidalgo.
Systematic reviews cream of the crop from Brazil through Egypt
NIDA International poster session on Monday, June 11, 2018
Three Australians, two North Americans; an Egyptian, African and Brazilian had one poster on systematic review each. Five were meta-analyses.
The Australian reviews dealt with overdose, STDs and injecting:
Nonfatal overdose prevalence among people who inject drugs S. Colledge, (UK, Australia);
Gender differences in HIV, anti-hepatitis C virus, and hepatitis B virus surface antigen prevalence among people who inject drugs J. Leung, (Australia, UK, Portugal);
Use of opioids and stimulants by people who inject drugs: A. Peacock, (Australia);
The North-Americans reviewed drug monitoring programmes:
Global review of drug-checking services 2017 L.J. Maier, (California);
Urinalysis frequency and health outcomes for persons on opioid agonist therapy: J. McEachern, (Canada);
Anger, brain stimulation and antipsychotics were reviewed too:
Anger in users of psychoactive substances H.V. Laitano, (Brazil);
Noninvasive brain stimulation in addiction medicine A. Elaghoury.(Egypt);
Atypical versus typical antipsychotics for the treatment of addiction: S. Hanu. (Ghana).
With the increasing demands on scientists’ workloads, systematic reviews are an effective way of staying up to date with the most recent developments in the field. See also my previous blog posts about CPDD from the previous years:
Change is the ultimate law of life. Those that do not change and adapt, do not survive. In the life of scientific meetings, this means constantly improving the organisation of the events and tailoring them to the changing needs of the conference delegates. This year, the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) introduced several improvements and more are on the way in next years.
Bye Bye Tote Bags
Bye Bye Printed Programs
For years, the conference book was a comprehensive bible for the conference week. Everybody read it and most followed it. Although the College printed a limited number of copies, this year, the e-programs drained participants smartphones’ batteries. What more, they offered note-taking and photograph uploading that many appreciated. Welcome to the digital age.
Hello Shorter Conference
See also my previous blog posts about CPDD from the previous years: