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Medication-assisted treatment

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A deadly crisis where you live 

Opioid addiction is a crisis in Pierce County. Overdoses were the leading cause of accidental deaths in 2017, killing more people than car accidents. Thousands more experience hospital stays, family problems, legal trouble and disrupted lives.

A problem this big demands a solution that’s proven to work. For many people, that means medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

An evidenced-based solution

MAT means giving people medications to stop their cravings while they focus on fixing other parts of their lives. MAT is available in 3 forms:

  • Buprenorphine relieves people’s withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings for some.
  • Naltrexone works best for people who have already abstained from opioid use. It makes people very sick if they take opioids while using it. 
  • Methadone is the answer for people who have developed a tolerance to opioids and need a higher level of care. These people also get regular counseling for:
    • Relapse prevention.
    • Overcoming past trauma.
    • Improving personal relationships.

With methadone, patients get the dose they need to recover without getting high from it.

Fighting the stigma

Methadone is the best tool to fight opioid use disorder. After 90 days, 80 percent of people continue their treatment. After 1 year, half are on the road to sustained recovery and stability, with:

  • Absence of illicit drug use.
  • Regular clinic attendance.
  • Absence of criminal activity.
  • Stable home environment and social relationships.

Unfortunately, only 1 in 9 people who need treatment get it. Many factors contribute, and stigma is a big one.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department serves about 920 clients in our methadone clinic. Thousands of people have their lives back thanks to our work.

Matching people with the most appropriate medication—the right care, at the right time and in the right place—is fundamental to solving the opioid crisis.

Our program is getting better

We’re always learning how we can better fight the opioid crisis.

This year, we are working to make it easier to enroll in MAT.

A new program called Med First will allow people to get MAT immediately. In the past, they’ve had to visit 3 times before we could help.

Now, our staff will deliver care on the spot at the Tacoma Needle Exchange van in our Pacific Ave. parking lot. 

The opioid crisis is growing so quickly it can be difficult to track. Because of Med First, we can share data with the University of Washington and Tacoma Needle Exchange. Our partnership allows us to respond more efficiently as we work to turn the tide.

Helping people recover from addiction is some of our most important work. We want to make sure clients connect with treatment in the right form, at the right time and in the right place. In many cases, that means our Treatment Services program.