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Friday, June 17, 2016

Georgia Moratorium on Suboxone Clinics

Drugs like Suboxone and methadone are used to treat those addicted to prescription opioids and heroin. In recent years, there has been a growing demand to provide access to substance use disorder treatment services, which is typically characterized by both inpatient and outpatient treatment centers. However, lack of availability in the areas often time the hardest hit by the American opioid epidemic, has resulted in a surge in both Suboxone and/or methadone clinics. The service they offer is known as medication assisted treatment, or MAT.

Despite the fact the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has called for greater access to MAT, there is a lot of controversy surrounding such programs. The most common argument against Suboxone and methadone maintenance clinics is the fact that opioid addicts are swapping one addictive opioid for another—doing little to address the addiction itself. Proponents of such programs contend that MAT drugs are the lesser of two evils. It is a debate which is likely to continue for some time as lawmakers and addiction experts attempt to compromise over the best route to take on the road to ending the epidemic taking a significant number of American lives every day.

In the Southeast, a large number of MAT clinics per capita have opened up that has some lawmakers concerned. Recently, the State of Georgia put a one-year moratorium on issuing licenses to MAT clinics, despite the epidemic, NPR reports. For some reason, Georgia has seen a dramatic rise in the opening of clinics offering Suboxone and methadone, which has left lawmakers in the state scratching their heads. Until they can figure out why their state has far more clinics than the surrounding states, the moratorium will continue.

"If you go to the parking lot of any of these clinics in northwest Georgia," said Senator Jeff Mullis, "you'll see as many Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky tags as you do Georgia tags."

Senator Mullis, who sponsored the moratorium legislation would like to know what makes Georgia unique. The legislation requires the formation of a committee to answer his question, according to the article. For instance, Florida which a population almost double that of Georgia has 65 clinics—Georgia has 67 such clinics.

Other states in the region have much fewer:
  • Alabama has 24
  • Tennessee has only 12
  • Mississippi has one clinic

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