It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic has gripped Northeast Pennsylvania, causing pain in too many local families who have lost loved ones to addiction.

The Wright Center for Community Health is home to one of the leading Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence, and is also a proud partner of Pennsylvania’s Coordinated Medication-Assisted Treatment program. My colleagues and I recognize the growing problem in our community, and we are dedicated to providing avenues to recovery through innovative medical treatments as well as social support systems.

In addition to board-certified addiction medicine physicians like myself, our care teams include case managers, social workers, administrative professionals and certified recovery specialists, the latter of whom have lived through addiction and can relate closely to the people we serve.

Becoming licensed and credentialed in addiction medicine was important to me because of the huge need for it in the area. I’ve seen so many patients who needed help finding recovery, and I owed it to them to learn more about the tools, medications and treatments available that could save their lives. I personally needed to take a proactive step to be better trained and prepared to provide more holistic care and support, and I’ve found that when it comes to this field of medicine, the learning never stops.

In recent weeks, I participated in training for Probuphine administration. This implant is designed to provide a constant, low-level dose of the medicine buprenorphine over a six-month period as part of a complete treatment program that also includes counseling.

This U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment option has many benefits compared to other forms of medication, including offering doctors the ability to directly administer medicine through a device in the arm that can be regulated off-site; improved convenience for patients who don’t need to remember to take medication on a daily basis; and eliminating the possibility for the medication to be lost or stolen.

Expanding the use and availability of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, options like buprenorphine is an important component of reducing prescription opioid and heroin-related overdose, death and dependence.

Though some doctors shy away from this course of treatment, statistics show that regular adherence to MAT with buprenorphine reduces opioid withdrawal symptoms and the desire to use without causing the cycle of highs and lows. It can also decrease the pleasurable effects of other opioids. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, patients receiving MAT cut their risk of death from all causes in half.

But MAT isn’t the answer all by itself. In my experience, successful recovery efforts require a comprehensive approach that combines approved medications with counseling and other behavioral therapies. At The Wright Center, we offer wrap-around services to empower patients seeking recovery, and no one is ever turned away due to lack of insurance or inability to pay.

I believe that change must also come from within the medical profession. I was recently appointed adjunct faculty for the American Society of Addiction Medicine, a teaching position that will allow me to impart the knowledge and real-life clinical encounters I have experienced with other physicians. At The Wright Center, we also require all resident doctors and fellows to become MAT-waivered, so that the next generation of doctors can continue helping the communities they serve through these proven methods.

Addiction itself is nothing new, but the ways in which we can treat it are constantly evolving and becoming more accessible. If you or someone you know needs to make a change and wants to find a better life in recovery, call The Wright Center or your primary care physician. You don’t have to do it alone.

Jignesh Y. Sheth, M.D., a primary care physician dually board-certified in internal medicine and addiction medicine, leads The Wright Center for Community Health as Chief Medical Officer. He sees patients at the Wright Center’s Jermyn practice and lives with his family in Clarks Summit. Send your medical questions to news@thewrightcenter.org.

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