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When the wealthy face addiction, they have the resources to place their lives on hold and enter treatment, choose sober living facilities, and remain in outpatient treatment indefinitely. For those with less financial resources, especially in rural areas, there are very few realistic addiction treatment options available.

Treatment centers in rural and poverty-stricken areas are few and far between. Even if a patient were able to find placement in a facility, and somehow managed to find transportation, it’s unlikely that either government or private insurance would be willing to pay for such treatment. The data from addiction treatment research hasn’t been encouraging; standard models of treatment for addiction are unlikely to work over the long term, and for all but the very wealthy, they are prohibitively expensive without insurance.

 

For these and other reasons, addiction can destroy the lives of the poor after even brief struggles. Many addicts struggle with money because their illness consumes much of their income, leaving them without the resources to pay for basic necessities like food and shelter. Additionally, the criminal justice system is likely to jail addicts rather than help them find treatment. Once an addict has a criminal record, it can be next to impossible to find work, even if they are somehow able to achieve lasting sobriety.

 

Perhaps most tragically, being surrounded by family members who are addicts, living in poverty, and lacking proper medical care for pain, anxiety, or depression, all predispose people not only to suffer from addiction initially, but also to sink back into addiction even if they have managed to achieve sobriety.

 

Though our government has justifiably called this situation a crisis, there is one bright spot in the descending darkness: telemedicine. Intriguingly, telemedicine has been at the forefront of new treatment modalities. Rightly so, it turns out, because telemedicine is available nearly everywhere, it is affordable for insurance companies and private individuals, and most importantly, research is showing that it actually works.

 

Picture this: you’re an addict. You are sixteen days sober, just through the harrows of detoxing from an addiction to oxycodone. Your husband is in the kitchen snorting a line, and your teenage nephew is already high, stretched out on the couch. You feel completely alone and overwhelmed by the need to join them and escape this awful reality, but instead, you run into the bathroom and dial your doctor.

 

Your message is relayed, and six minutes later, you are having a video chat with a doctor. You feel safe in that space with just you and your doctor, and you’re able to be completely honest about your current situation without any fear of consequences for you or your loved ones. Your doctor talks you through the situation, and says she’ll be calling you back in just three hours to make sure you’re okay.

This is the vision telemedicine providers have, and it’s becoming more feasible every day. There are challenges regarding secure implementation, but secure services like Online Doctor Visit are part of the new possibilities in addiction medicine, where financial status, location, and lack of family support don’t have to be a death sentence. There is hope, and we are proud to be part of this desperately needed solution to the addiction epidemic.

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