I can’t remember where I was or who it was. But someone described FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb as “the most prolific user” of Twitter ever to head an HHS agency when they were introducing him to speak at an event.
He laughed. A few months later, he’s starting his very own social media campaign: #stopMATstigma. MAT stands for “medicated-assisted treatments” which combine behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders like the opioid epidemic. Only about 17 percent of the 2.1 million people with an opioid use disorder received this specialty treatment.
“We need to erase the stigma some have that a patient is still suffering from an opioid addiction even when they’re in full recovery, just because they require medication to treat their illness, craving and withdrawal symptoms. #stopMATstigma,” Gottlieb tweeted.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved three medications to treat opioid dependence: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Peter Thomas, membership and quality assurance officer for the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, told me recently that promising research has indicated they can reduce mortality rates and lead to more negative drug test results.
But because these MATs can produce euphoria in people who are not dependent on opioids—the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes Health, said “many people have assumed that this form of treatment just substitutes a new substance use disorder for an old one.”
One of these many people—as Political Pro editor Arthur Allen pointed out—is actually Gottlieb’s former boss Tom Price. The former HHS secretary told the West Virginia Gazette in May 2017, “If we’re just substituting one opioid for another, we’re not moving the dial much.” (You probably knew this and/or figured this out, but this quote did not go over well with hundreds of researchers and health-care providers).
But the question is: Can the HHS’s “most prolific” tweeter use social media to de-stigmatize MATs? Follow the hash tag and let me know what you think!
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