We can get our favorite TV shows on-demand. We can find just about anything we want online. Amazon even offers easy buttons now, to reorder your favorite stuff with just one click.
We’ve come so far with technology, convenience, and efficiency to quickly meet so many of our wants and needs. Yet, we’re still losing 140 Americans every day to overdose. Why? It’s partly because more than half of the 2.2 million Americans with an opioid use disorder aren’t receiving treatment. As the death toll continues to rise, medical professionals and lawmakers are working on an idea that could save countless lives and revolutionize the addiction treatment industry: Instant access to treatment.
Why the Delay in Treatment?
The premise of on-demand treatment is simple: when someone asks for help with a substance abuse issue, they get help right away. True on-demand treatment provides immediate assistance to inhibit cravings, stabilize the patient, and provide a long-term treatment plan. This method could prevent many needless deaths, but several factors stand in the way of this valuable treatment resource, such as:
- Availability: People seeking addiction treatment discover a shortage of professionals and extensive wait times. With so many people hooked on opioids, there simply aren’t enough counselors, treatment centers and beds to go around. No US city currently offers all forms of treatment on demand.
- Access: Even when treatment options are available, not all patients can easily access them. They lack transportation. They have no phone to call for help. They may not even realize the options exist. Someone on one side of a city may never encounter a treatment center on the other side. Another may never encounter the hotline number that could save their life.
- Finances: Treatment isn’t cheap. Just like everything else in the healthcare arena today, most rehabs cost a lot of money. Insurance may cover some of it, but not all. And, not everyone has great insurance coverage to begin with. Those that do may need pre-authorization to receive coverage. Working their way through this red tape is a far cry from treatment on-demand.
- Stigma: Let’s imagine a near-perfect scenario where someone dependent on opioids knows about on-demand treatment in their city, can access it and can even pay for these services. They still have one more barrier to overcome. They may not seek this treatment due to the stigma associated with chemical dependency. Hesitant to admit their struggles, they fear facing shame, exclusion, punishment, judgment and more.
Getting the Help You Need…When You Need It
If someone can work up the courage to ask for help, it needs to be available without delay. In the midst of a tornado of addiction, it’s easy to want help one minute and give up the next. Waiting for an open bed, open enrollment, or open arms aren’t always realistic options. In fact, these delays are often deadly. If we want to reduce the number of overdose deaths, we must remove these barriers to on-demand treatment.
Perhaps if we made treatment as easy to access as sitcom reruns, we could turn the tide on our nation’s opioid epidemic.
Additional Reading: Treatment Waiting Lists Can Be a Death Sentence
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