A time to begin the journey…

Medication-Assisted Treatment: Addiction Is a Disease…


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of drug overdose deaths for 2021 reached 107,622 which equals 1 life lost every 5 minutes. Opioids were found in 80,816 (75%) of those deaths and synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) accounted for 71,238 (66%) of the total overdose deaths in 2021.

In response to the opioid epidemic, Harbor House has implemented a medication assisted treatment (MAT) program under the leadership of its Medical Director Dr. Randy Easterling.

Randy Easterling, MD has been in the private practice of Family Medicine and Addiction Medication in Vicksburg, Mississippi for the past 34 years. He received his BS Degree in Chemistry from Mississippi College in 1973 and later obtained his master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1977. Dr. Easterling then attended the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and received his MD in 1984. After medical school he completed a residency in Family Medicine at the University of Alabama-College of Community Health Sciences in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where he was Chief Resident his last year. In 1987 Dr. Easterling became a Diplomate with the American Academy of Family Physicians and was named a Fellow with the American Board of Family Physicians in 1998. He earned his certification by the American Board of Addiction Medicine in 2002 and was named Fellow with the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 2019. Dr. Easterling served as president of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians from 2004-2005 and served on the Council on Legislation for the Mississippi State Medical Association from 2001-2004. During that time the Mississippi State Medical Association accomplished ground-breaking tort reform which is still in effect today. He served as president of the Mississippi State Medical Association from 2009-2010. Dr. Easterling was appointed by then Governor Haley Barbour in 2006 to serve a 6-year term on the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure. He was reappointed by Governor Phil Bryant to serve an additional 6-year term. He served as President of the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure from 2012-2014.

In November 2011, Governor Phil Bryant appointed Dr. Easterling to head his health care transition team and in 2017 he appointed him to serve as Vice-Chairman for the Governor’s Opioid and Heroin Study Taskforce. In 2020, Dr. Easterling was appointed by the AMA to serve as one of 20 physicians nationwide to serve on the AMA’s task force on the medical use of marijuana. Dr. Easterling is CEO of West Mississippi Medical Services that provide healthcare services on a contracted basis. He is presently contracted with Harbor House of Jackson to provide addiction treatment services for Jackson and the state of Mississippi.

MAT is the use of medications combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders and prevent opioid overdose and overdose death. MAT is primarily used to treat addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain killers that contain opiates by reducing cravings while allowing the brain and body time to gradually return to a balanced state. Harbor House only uses medications approved the Food and Drug Administration for this type of treatment.

The goal of MAT is full recovery, which includes the ability to live a life free of drug seeking behavior and full of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. MAT is founded on the chronic disease management model like diabetes, asthma and hypertension which rely on medications to reduce symptoms and allow persons to improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.

Many people in and out of the recovery community join in the debate of whether medication-assisted treatment is swapping one addiction for another. At Harbor House, we believe in keeping a person alive long enough to make that decision for themselves. Not everyone who uses an opioid is appropriate for MAT. However, for those individuals who are appropriate for MAT, it can be their only life-saving and life-giving option.

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