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The Champion

August 2018 , Page 20 

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Defense Lawyers and the Opioid Epidemic: Advocating for Addiction Medication

By Sally Friedman and Melissa Trent

Over 115 Americans likely will die today from an overdose involving opioids.1 The death and destruction caused by the current opioid epidemic has impacted every stage of the criminal justice system. Nearly two-thirds of incarcerated people have substance use disorders, including up to 25 percent with opioid use disorder (OUD),2 and drug overdose is the leading cause of death for individuals leaving prisons.3 Courts, probation and parole agencies are also seeing surging numbers of people with OUD.

Defense lawyers can play a critical role in stemming this harm by challenging courts and others who prohibit medication-assisted treatment for people under criminal justice supervision. Doing so will not only help save lives, families and communities, but also will often improve criminal case outcomes.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the treatment of opioid use disorder with medication, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. MAT stabilizes brain chemistry, blocks the eup

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