SAMHSA Releases App to Help in Treating Opioid Abusers

The new smartphone app is designed to provide essential resources and information to doctors interested in utilizing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) therapies to treat patients with a prescription opioid abuse disorder.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently launched a smartphone app designed to provide essential resources and information to doctors interested in utilizing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to treat patients with a prescription opioid abuse disorder. The MATx app is both Apple- and Android-compatible and can be accessed through app stores; it's one of the latest measures taken by the SAMHSA to spread awareness about MAT to primary care physicians and other health care providers.

According to SAMHSA, there has been a stigma attached to MAT therapies. Doctors may be wary of taking on a new accreditation process to be able to prescribe buprenorphine with naloxone and patients may be wary of admitting they need medical assistance for a possible addiction to opioids. "There's also a big problem with inadequate access to care across the country. We don't have enough providers, especially those providing medically assisted treatment," said Dr. Sharon Stancliff, M.D., medical director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. For existing providers, there are not enough slots to treat the influx of patients diagnosed with the disorder who need medical help, she added.

The MATx app provides instant access to SAMHSA's locater tool for helping doctors and patients find the nearest qualified opioid use disorder treatment center; it is regularly updated and intended to be primary physicians' first-line resource for finding immediate qualified treatment if they have a patient possibly suffering from an opioid use disorder. "Access to these providers is difficult, but even before you get to that point, knowing where and what resources are available in particular communities is important, and [MATx] is intended to be very easy to use at the point of service," said Dr. Anita Everett, M.D., chief medical officer at SAMHSA.

The app provides practical information on the medications and treatment approaches approved by FDA to treat opioid use disorders and includes:

  • A buprenorphine prescribing guide for practitioners
  • Clinical support tools, including treatment guidelines, the ICD-10 coding, and recommendations for doctors working with special patient populations

In 2015, nearly 2.4 million Americans had an opioid use disorder, but only one-fifth of patients 12 or older received some sort of treatment for substance use disorder, according to the SAMHSA announcement. It isn't clear how many of those patients actually were receiving care for their addiction to opioids, Stancliff explained.

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