(This is cross-posted at the Century Foundation’s Taking Note)
Sunday’s New York Times included heart-wrenching accounts of newborn babies enduring opiate drug withdrawal. The story provided only one cause for optimism: Both babies and their painkiller-dependent mothers can benefit dramatically from long-term maintenance treatment on medications such as methadone or buprenorphine.
Unless, of course, these mothers were among the ten million active-duty or retired military personnel or dependents insured through the Department of Defense’s TRICARE insurance program. TRICARE limits methadone and buprenorphine prescriptions to short-term detoxification. Echoing the anti-methadone attitudes of the 1970s, TRICARE regulations baldly state, “Drug maintenance programs when one addictive drug is substituted for another on a maintenance basis (such as methadone substituting for heroin) are not covered.”
This is a huge mistake, especially given the military’s escalating problems of prescription painkiller misuse. Keith Humphreys and I say more, in today’s American Prospect.