Commissioner’s view: Take action on methadone, other drugsAddiction to prescription drugs and other opiates is a growing crisis, so much so that the Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy released last year identified it as a top priority.
By: Lucinda Jesson, for the News Tribune
Addiction to prescription drugs and other opiates is a growing crisis, so much so that the Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy released last year identified it as a top priority. Ironically, the problem extends to a drug used to treat heroin and other addictions: methadone. Reports of methadone being used illegally and causing the same problems as the drugs it is intended to combat have risen dramatically, in some cases leading to tragic consequences. Troubling news stories about the lack of oversight at clinics that dispense methadone have shown regulatory compliance to be an emerging factor in these cases.
Last week, Minnesota took an important first step to address the unintended fallout from the misuse of methadone. Legislation proposed by the state Department of Human Services (DHS) and sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont; Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick; and Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, would step up monitoring to prevent further abuse, improve enforcement tools so we can take action when problems occur and strengthen treatment for people who are addicted.
Five states and federal agencies monitor treatment programs for opiate abuse, a confusing patchwork that can make monitoring and enforcement cumbersome. The proposed legislation would incorporate federal standards into state licensing laws, making violations clearly enforceable at the state level and allowing the DHS to act more quickly and effectively.
Our proposal focuses on prevention. Methadone treatment programs would be required to take advantage of the Prescription Monitoring Program, a tool that can help ensure patients are not accessing methadone or other pain-control medications from other sources. This will help prevent methadone from being sold illegally or from otherwise being used improperly.
The proposed legislation also increases treatment services for clients to help them stabilize and recover.
These proposals significantly would strengthen our state’s ability to treat opiate addiction. It would allow us to responsibly take advantage of methadone, a medically recognized treatment, while addressing the inherent risks involved with use of this powerful drug. Input from the provider community has been valuable as we refined our approach.
The methadone legislation is just one component of a package of proposals from Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration to address substance abuse and advance the objectives of the State Substance Abuse Strategy, created by several state agencies with the help of community partners. Other important investments in the governor’s budget that support this effort include:
Together, these and other efforts at the state and local level will help us address the rising costs and human tragedy caused by addiction. We know this is just a beginning, but it is a solid foundation that will help Minnesota more effectively prevent and combat substance abuse.
Lucinda Jesson is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.