Category Archives: Opiate Treatment

Heroin and Prescription Drug Epidemic

senate-bill-drug-treatmentThe growing problem around opioid addiction continues to receive coverage in the media, and it has become a topic of discussion on the campaign trail because candidates are being approached throughout the country by concerned families and citizens.

Marcia Taylor, President of Partnership For Drug Free Kids, provided testimony in January to a Senate Judiciary Committee on the need to increase funding for drug prevention and drug treatment. Proposed for consideration is the CARA Senate Bill which stands for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. CARA would allocate funding for drug treatment and prevention resources with a goal of getting more addicted individuals into treatment, and better educating both parents and teens on the dangers of recreational opioid use.

CARA would also address the need to distribute naloxone across the U.S. to aid in the fight to reduce deaths from opioid overdose. Local law enforcement would be trained on the administration of naloxone. Prescription drug monitoring programs would also receive increased support under CARA.

Methadone and Suboxone have become familiar interventions for anyone knowledgeable on opioid addiction issues. Most state-funded opioid treatment programs in the United States are currently full and have waiting lists of addicted people who are eager to participate in medication-assisted treatment.

In America, there has been a notable expansion in recent years of treatment programs who utilize methadone or suboxone to help patients. While many of these programs are private self-pay, Medicaid presently pays for methadone-based treatment approaches in a number of U.S. states. The number of private pay programs currently outnumber state-funded and Medicaid-funded programs by a substantial margin.

Expanding Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

opioid-treatment-in-mediaAn article in the Huffington Post recently addressed President Obama’s public comments on expanding access to opioid treatment, particularly medication-assisted treatment (MAT) like methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone).

Many members of the treatment industry and recovery community do not have a realistic grasp on the role that medication-assisted treatment can play in recovery from severe opioid addiction. Historically, the recovery community has not regarded those utilizing methadone or suboxone as truly in recovery. They emphasize total abstinence, even from methadone, despite the fact that methadone and buprenorphine have restored individuals to normal functioning and even saved lives in many cases.

There was a time some years ago, in the 12 step community, when individuals were chastised for taking psychotropic medication for depression or other mental health disorders. This criticism came from a fundamental lack of knowledge about the biological basis for many mental health disorders. Similarly, medication-assisted treatment interventions have been the subject of misunderstanding and unwarranted rejection by those with limited education on varied treatment approaches.

As America’s opioid problem continues to grow, we need real solutions rooted in medical science and research. At this point in time, medication-assisted treatment has been in use long enough to clearly demonstrate its usefulness in facilitating personal recovery from addiction.

In 2015, we saw numerous local and national political figures rally around families that have been impacted by heroin overdoses and the heartbreaking loss of loved ones. Opioid addiction has finally come into focus within the mainstream media, and even current Presidential candidates have begun to address this as an important issue which commands attention and a solution.

More: Question and Answers on how methadone works

 

Making A New Start

methadone-graphicA study by the government agency SAMHSA indicated there were approximately 254,000 patients receiving methadone for opioid addiction in 2006. In 2015, it is most likely that number is much higher given the prevalence of opioid addiction and the continued expansion of outpatient opioid treatment services in the United States. Today, there are considerably more methadone clinics and suboxone-approved physicians than there were a decade ago.

Making a new start with medication-assisted treatment is what hundreds of people across the country are deciding to do for themselves every week. Addiction is a progressive illness – one in which a person’s ability to choose is severely compromised. Medication-assisted treatment using either methadone or buprenorphine (suboxone) provides an important open door to a more responsible, quality life.

A majority of individuals suffering with opioid addiction (particularly when the illness spans years) have experienced dramatic brain changes which deepened their physiological dependency on opiates. This physical dependency is not easily removed. It is severe and persistent thus leading the person to do whatever is necessary to avoid being sick from opioid withdrawal.

Most long-term addicted individuals will tell you they rarely, if ever, get high from the illicit substances they use. They are simply trying to avoid being sick from debilitating opioid withdrawal symptoms. When a patient chooses to receive methadone or buprenorphine under the supervision of a doctor, they are making a decision to face their illness and to do something constructive about it.

As a family or friend, it is very helpful to gain an understanding of addiction and how medication-assisted treatment can be life changing for a person stuck in the cycle of opiate addiction.

Making a new start can be a bit frightening. Will methadone work for me? Will my loved ones condemn me? What about my job, or my legal situation? It becomes easy to put off making a decision when so many questions come into play.

It is important to remember that the road to recovery begins with just one step forward. That step will lead to another and another. This new start is always available. The message is one of hope and opportunity. Opiate addiction is a treatable illness. Medication-assistance can make a real difference.

Committing Yourself To Recovery From Addiction

mental-healthDrug and alcohol addiction are treatable illnesses. They can be successfully managed and “arrested” such that they do not continue to harm a person’s life or compromise their health. Just as with any progressive illness, a patient should commit to a course of treatment that has been proven to eradicate their illness or reduce its impact. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, morbid obesity, alzheimer’s – all of these have established medical treatments which can increase a person’s chance of survival and/or quality of life.

Addiction is both a physiological and behavioral illness. With opioid addiction in particular, there is a strong biological/physical basis as well as a highly significant psychological component. When both of these are adequately addressed, a patient has a new opportunity to recover.

For most individuals with a severe opioid addiction, is critically important to receive physical relief from the discomfort of opioid withdrawal symptoms. But this must also happen in conjunction with behavioral health counseling. Counseling addresses the emotional & psychological factors that contributed to the development of addiction in the first place, and counseling teaches the skills necessary to remain drug free over the long-term and to hopefully avoid future relapses.

Many people find that if they neglect one of these two key areas, then they are more vulnerable to relapse and rapid deterioration. When opioid detox is not a viable option for a particular patient, methadone and suboxone are clearly the medications of choice for addressing opioid withdrawal. Counseling provides the other half of the equation. All methadone programs across the country (as well as all suboxone-approved physicians) are required to insure that their patients are receiving some level of addiction counseling.

The essential ingredient is this mix is patient commitment. Having a genuine desire for a drug free life is as important as anything else. Becoming ready for change is a process in itself and varies from person to person. It is true that many people find their way into recovery because of a recent crisis in which things get so bad they hit a new low, or bottom. This does not have to happen though.

Sometimes hitting “bottom” brings with it dire consequences. If you have been contemplating making a change, please remember that it is not too late. There are many advantages to acting today as opposed to waiting another day. Addiction loves procrastination. Recovery begins now with your commitment to doing something about your problem!

Cassava Recovery App For Mobile Phones

cassava-appA new mobile phone app for recovering people was released last month by Elements Behavioral Health based out of Long Beach, California. The app is called Cassava and it provides a number of nifty features such as a daily reflection, a support group meetings finder based on your location, and a personal sobriety tracker that measures one’s number of days drug free.

In addition to days sober, the app allows users to record in a personal journal format their moods, daily nutrition, and even sleep patterns. An important part of growth in recovery is following new disciplines and remaining aware of self-care needs. The Cassava app can function as a useful toot for recovering people aiming to feed their recovery on a daily basis.

Another potentially helpful feature of the app is the inclusion of “recovery tips”. These function as reminders and suggestions for ways to cope with relapse risks. Addicted people, particularly in the early phase of recovery, are more vulnerable to sudden urges to use and often need a means of redirecting their thinking in order to sidestep a build-up of thoughts that feed the urge to use. Reading recovery literature has always been a potentially useful action step that helps to short circuit urges and cravings.

The app is free and can be downloaded from the Apple website. While it is designed for Apple iPhone 5.0 and above, I was able to install the app on version 4.0 and it worked well.