Lee Health is announcing a pilot program to treat opioid addiction and address the opioid crisis in Southwest Florida.

The initiative includes implementing Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for patients with endocarditis, a potentially deadly heart infection. 

The opioid crisis has induced a marked increase in endocarditis patients, a heart valve infection that often stems from intravenous drug use and results in multiple surgeries and hospitalizations, a press release states. MAT is an evidence-based treatment that uses medication to block the effects of opioids and helps users effectively maintain sobriety and recovery.

MAT works by activating opioid receptors in the brain to provide relief from withdrawals and cravings without providing the euphoria that comes from using opioids.

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To make the program possible, hospitalists and emergency department doctors have applied for and received waivers to administer and prescribe buprenorphine, an opioid-like medication used to treat opioid addiction. To date, a handful of patients have been entered into the pilot program.