Telemedicine is advancing how we treat drug and alcohol addiction. That’s good news for the 21 million people in this country with substance use disorders (SUDs). Here’s why, from my perspective as an addiction clinician.
Substance abuse is now a major public health crisis that demands urgent priority and the application of new and innovative solutions that can help close the treatment gap. At a time when drug overdose is the fastest-growing cause of accidental death, and when more people have SUDs than cancer, telehealth treatment for addiction promises to reach a whole swath of people in need of treatment, for whom geography or other factors — stigma can be another one — were once an obstacle to help. It still remains the case, for example, that patients in rural areas of the country have to drive long distances to get to a treatment center or to see an addiction specialist for medication-assisted treatment. Telemedicine is reducing the burden of such barriers.