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As Philly pushes for more medication-assisted drug treatment, thousands of treatment slots are still empty

Fighting the worst urban overdose epidemic in the country, Philadelphia health officials have scrambled to offer more of what is proven most effective in helping opioid users reach recovery: medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

But nearly a quarter of the inpatient and outpatient treatment slots that fit the description are still empty, city officials said Thursday. That’s in a city where an estimated 70,000 people are injecting heroin.

Advocates say there’s no way to compel people to seek treatment until they are ready. Many users say fear of the pain of withdrawal keeps them from treatment, but MAT has been shown to address that problem well — if administered quickly.

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