Medicaid Expansion Helps California's Heroin Addicts Get Treatment

Medicaid Expansion Helps California's Heroin Addicts Get Treatment

The use of heroin is up in California and around the country. Those who signed up for Medi-Cal, California’s expanded Medicaid program for the poor, are able to get free methadone treatment.

California Health Report notes that the number of admissions for heroin addiction went up 33 percent in 2013, an unusually large jump. The resurgence in the use of heroin is being attributed to a previous surge in the use of Oxycontin and Vicodin.

The state of California is actually suing several pharmaceutical companies over what prosecutors claim was deceptive advertising that caused use of addictive prescription drugs to surge. There were 16,000 deaths from illicit use of the drugs in 2010. When users could no longer get their hands on prescription drugs, they eventually turned to heroin as a cheaper alternative.

In California, those who signed up for expanded Medi-Cal (nearly two million in all) are now eligible for free methadone treatment. That can be the difference between staying on methadone or slipping back into heroin addiction for some patients.

Garrett Stenson, medical director of a clinic which provides the treatment in Sacramento, tells California Health Report, “We certainly have seen a small spike,” in the number of people signing up. He estimates the increase at just over five percent.

For those addicted to heroin, methadone hasa much higher success rate than treatments without drugs. But methadonetreatment costs money, and for those who previously did not have insurance (or a job), that could be out of reach.