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Law expands medication-assisted treatment

Oct 01, 2015 12:03 am
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Andrea Sears at Public News Service reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that expands access to medical treatment for drug addiction. The law amends state criminal procedure law to ensure that defendants and parolees are not penalized for using medically prescribed drugs to treat addiction while under a doctor's care. According to Kassandra Frederique, New York policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, some judges in the state's drug courts have forced defendants to stop medication-assisted treatment to avoid prison. "Judges are not doctors, judges are not treatment providers," she said, "and so putting them in a position where they are in charge of someone's treatment options or modalities is not appropriate." Drug-policy reform advocates say the law is an important part of the move away from a law-enforcement approach to addiction, toward one that treats drug use as a public health problem. In New York, as in many other states, heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse have been increasing dramatically. Frederique called medications such as methadone and Suboxone the gold standard for treating opioid addiction. "Research has consistently shown that medically assisted treatment helps reduce cravings, overdose deaths, HIV risk behaviors," she said. From 2003 to 2012, poisoning deaths involving drugs in New York more than doubled. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, improved access to medication with voluntary treatment and access to harm-reduction programs would save lives.