Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


September 16th, 2015

“Wait time is among the most commonly cited barriers to access among individuals seeking entry to substance abuse treatment, yet relatively little is known about what contributes to it.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

So what do you do if you are put on a waiting list to get into rehab?  Worse yet, what do you do if you are a parent waiting to get your child into rehab?  Waiting to get into drug rehab is a very stressful situation for the addict as well as their family and friends.  The shortage of beds is due to the growing opiate and heroin epidemic.

Just this week, NBC News reported some startling numbers on the wait list for federally-funded rehab.  States like Massachusetts, Florida and Ohio have waits that span from weeks to months.  In Maine, according to the NBC report the wait is as long as 18 months.   More startling is that our prisons are becoming detox facilities.  Most certainly you will detox in prison, but there is no support system in there for helping you find the tools to stay clean and put your life back together when you get out.

The shortage of rehab beds and the growing opiate and heroin epidemic have created a crisis in this country.  One that will have to be seriously addressed by the medical community, as well as our elected officials.  In the meantime, until a solution arises, I support referring patients who can’t get into rehab to a lower level of care such as an outpatient drug program.  Outpatient rehab is a temporary solution but right now next to getting into a rehab it’s the only real option for many addicts.

Look, it certainly isn’t the ideal solution, but it does offer the professional oversight and the support that is needed to help an addict start recovery.  These outpatient programs now allow for drugs like Subutex and Suboxone to be dispensed.  Before these two drugs were added to the outpatient treatment programs drugs like methadone could only be dispensed in specialized addiction treatment centers where you were admitted.

The FDA website confirms that “there are not enough addiction treatment centers to help all patients seeking treatment. Subutex and Suboxone are the first narcotic drugs available under the Drug Abuse Treatment Act (DATA) of 2000 for the treatment of opiate dependence that can be prescribed in a doctor’s office. This change will provide more patients the opportunity to access treatment.”

Subutex and Suboxone help with opiate addiction because they both contain the active ingredient, buprenorphine hydrochloride, which works to reduce the symptoms of opiate dependence.

The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse did a 2012 study that said that nationwide, only 11 per cent of substance abusers get help from treatment centers.  According to the study the primary reason that number is so low is because the wait time is too long.

The NBC story references another study that says “Even when people sign up for wait lists, they will only tolerate one month on average. 40 per cent of people on a wait list will drop off in two weeks, according to a 2008 study.” Click here for the full NBC Story “As Heroin Epidemic Grows, So Does Rehab Wait” by Charlie Giles, September 6, 2015.

If you have questions about rehab placement in the New York area please email me at drpaul@henrypaulmd.com.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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