Study Shows Treatment for Opioid Addicts Often Inadequate

In an effort to help the millions of people who are addicted to opiates and opioids, countless treatment centers and mental health facilities are providing services, but studies are showing that the approaches to help are inadequate.

The Problem:

opioidOpioid overdoses and complications from addiction are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Public health officials are even calling opioid addiction an epidemic, which means that it is being categorized as a widespread infectious disease within a community. While obviously not physically contiguous, addiction can certainly be a culture growth to the point where it almost seems to be passed from one person to another.

The disease of addiction is even harder to treat when the drug of choice is an opiate or an opioid. What is the difference? An opiate is a substance that is derived from the naturally growing poppy plant. Opium, from the plant, is used for its various components: codeine and morphine, that are made into drugs like heroin and methadone.

Pharmaceutical companies created concoctions of chemicals that mimic the painkilling effects of opiates. This class of drugs is called opioids, and includes brand names like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Opana, Norco, and Demerol.

Opiates and opioids are highly addictive and require a solid commitment to sobriety for a user to stay clean after quitting their use.

What is the Current Treatment for Opioid Addiction?

A big part of the picture for a recovering opioid addict is the powerful craving for the drug that occurs when physical and psychological dependence on any opioid, or opiate, has developed. The body and the brain become accustomed to the drug so rapidly that neither allows the individual to stay opioid free for too long.

In an effort to combat the cravings, many substance abuse treatment professionals offer clients other pharmaceutical prescription drugs, like methadone, Suboxone, Naltrexone, or Buprenorphine. Using one drug to stop the use of another is always controversial; is an addict really clean when still using a drug? Does it matter if someone is using a weaker opioid when it is keeping him or her from using heroin or Vicodin? What if the client only uses a medication while in treatment, or even just while detoxing, and is given a titration schedule that will gradually end in zero drug use?

The use of medications for opioid addiction treatment is debatable. Other forms of effective treatment are individual therapy, peer group processing, and 12-Step involvement while participating in a residential inpatient program, meaning clients live on-site among those who are also in their treatment groups. Various traditional and holistic forms of healing are offered, and can be very beneficial for recovering drug addicts.

Why is Opioid Addiction Not Being Sufficiently Treated Like Other Addictions?

Opioid addiction is chronic, progressive in nature, meaning it will always get worse, and it is recurrent, meaning it will continue to come back, even when in remission so to speak. Unless someone has access to stay connected to formal treatment, the likelihood of relapse is extremely high with opioid and opiate addicts.

The main barrier that keeps most people from staying in treatment long-term is financial feasibility. Rehab can be really expensive, and unless you have an outstanding health insurance plan, you will be spending a good amount of money out of pocket.

The Affordable Care Act that is being rolled out for the first of the year will offer treatment options to those without health insurance before, and will ideally help treat opioid addiction more adequately.

If you, or someone you know, needs help for opioid addiction, the treatment team at Balboa Horizons is available. Contact the center today to start healing from addiction.

Photo Credit: NIDA(NIH)

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