Last month, the U.S. Department of Defense ruled the authorization of Tricare (the U.S. Military’s insurance program) to cover drug maintenance programs. This important ruling will allow the military’s active duty members, veterans, and their families to participate in methadone maintenance programs, which have shown to greatly improve the likeliness that an individual will fully recover from drug addiction.
Often, military members return from service with both physical ailments as well as psychological issues that must be addressed with prescription drugs. It’s an unfortunate fact that a growing number of soldiers are becoming dependent on painkillers. As beneficial as these drugs may be, there is a great risk of chemical dependency for many of these drugs. According to a study released by the Army in 2010, over 1 in 7 service members received a prescription for pain medication, which comes out to nearly 250,000 active duty troops. Many of these individuals become addicted. The new measures set by the Department of Defense will help this rising number of addicted service members get the help that they need, as the individuals suffering from a dependency on prescription painkillers will now be able to participate in a drug substitution therapy program, with coverage from Tricare equaling the coverage of other drug rehabilitation programs.
Prior to the ruling, Tricare was one of the only private health insurance providers that did not cover the cost of drug substitution therapy. It’s only fair that those who have dedicated their lives to fighting for our nation receive the same level of insurance benefits as other private citizens with various types of private insurance.
Drug substitution is a kind of drug rehabilitation therapy that involves prescribing therapeutic drugs- like methadone- to counteract the effects of highly addictive prescription drugs. Though therapeutic drugs are also addictive, they are considered practically necessary for recovery from opioid abuse and can be life-saving. In fact, research has shown that the use of therapeutic drugs to withdraw from opioids, can be much more successful results than simply quitting opioids “cold turkey”.
Prior to the new ruling, the only maintenance drug covered by Tricare was Suboxone. Now, Tricare will continue to offer Suboxone, but will also offer the coverage of drugs like Methadone, which has shown proven success in the treatment of opiate addiction. In addition to helping patients break the cycle of drug addiction, Methadone also lessens the physical symptoms of the discontinuation of opioid use. Painful withdrawal symptoms include side effects like tremors, nausea, and cravings. Offering access to treatment with both Suboxone and Methadone will benefit a larger population of individuals.
Addiction to heroin or opioid painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin is a hard habit to break, regardless of the individual struggling with addiction. Maintenance treatments through therapeutic drugs, like Methadone, are considered long-term treatments, meaning that some individuals will be prescribed Methadone for the duration of their lives. The Department of Defense’s ruling will also cover the expenses of long-term treatment, which will greatly aid in the overall success rates of service members seeking to overcome their addictions.
CAP Medical Clinics applauds the federal government for instituting this important change in the insurance programs for service members and their families. For more information on the Department of Defense’s ruling on maintenance treatment to combat opioid addiction, please visit this link from the Office of the Federal Registrar: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/10/22/2013-24232/tricare-removal-of-the-prohibition-to-use-addictive-drugs-in-the-maintenance-treatment-of-substance