Opioid Addiction and Opioid Treatment FAQs: Part 2
It’s nearly the best time of year to retrace your steps and see where you’ve been. That’s what Buprenorphine Doctors has done last week and will finish doing this week: explain the basic foundations of opioid addiction and treatment. Where did we leave off?
The opioid FAQ article last week walked through opioids, opioid addiction, and opioid addiction treatments. Now we’ll round it out with a Frequently Asked Questions about all the rest of the things you should know.
What are Prescription Opioids?
They’re the opioids which doctors can legally prescribe to you for pain relief. If a doctor gives them out carefully to patients, there’s only a small risk of addiction. But there hasn’t been much caution in giving out prescription opioids for pain—many people have become addicted to them (because of the intense physical pleasure they give your body). Examples of prescription opioids are oxycodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and others.
How Can I Safely Take Prescription Opioids for Chronic Pain?
Just make sure to take them exactly as your doctor instructs. Take only the pills they tell you; don’t take them any other time except for when instructed; don’t share them with anyone, since it’s your prescription and only yours. Stay in close contact with your doctor, and if you’re feeling like you have to take the medication to be normal, call them immediately. They should help you taper off your doses (make sure to taper, and not to stop your dose altogether).
What about Opioid Addiction and Mental Illness?
That’d be called a “co-occurring disorder,” where opioid addiction and mental illness co-occur (exist at the same time). It matters because co-occurring disorders complicate the treatment for both the addiction and the mental illness—your treatment has to address them both at once. If you only face one, the other will undo all your progress.
To learn more, look at Co-Occuring Disorders and Opioid Addiction or at this other co-occurring disorders explainer article.
Aren’t MATs Just Another Drug?
No, MATs are medications which give evidence-supported recovery help to those addicted to opioids. It’s true that buprenorphine and methadone act similarly to opioids, but they’re much weaker. Add to this that doctors design recovery treatment to minimize the risk of addiction, and that they pair buprenorphine with naloxone to prepare the body to wean off opioid dependence.
In fact, the stigma against MATs as legitimate treatment dissuade some people from receiving treatment or continuing their recovery. These effects have harmful effects, and so the stigma has become something we badly need to correct.
What is Opioid Relapse?
If you’ve gone through opioid addiction treatment (complete with detox and MAT therapies), relapse means you’ve used opioids again. It’s not simply something shameful, since about 40-60% of those addicted to opioids will relapse after their first treatment attempt.
But here’s the problem: MAT medications work to lower your tolerance for opioid use. Often, if you relapse, you’ll use opioids at the level you did before treatment, even though your body can no longer handle the amount. This can cause an overdose, which can often be fatal.
What is Opioid Addiction Recovery?
It’s the lifelong process of balancing yourself so that you can resist urges to use opioids. Once you’ve completed the initial opioid addiction treatment, what your recovery looks like will depend. Just about everyone needs to continue taking buprenorphine (acts over time and you’ll eventually wean off it). Others will live in sober living conditions that have recovery resources built in. Many people in opioid addiction recovery choose to attend peer meetings, which keep them in supportive community and provide accountability. What’s most important is to choose your most effective strategies (medical, emotional, and social strategies).
How Bad is the Opioid Crisis?
It takes a severe cost on many parts of the United States, and it has since the late 1990s. The federal government declared the crisis a national emergency back in October 2017. From 1999 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 400,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses—the rate now is roughly 130 people per day. The involved opioids include prescription opioids (like Oxycontin), illegal opioids (like heroin), and synthetic, or lab-designed, opioids (like fentanyl).
What are People Doing About It?
Both governments and advocacy groups have made combating the opioid crisis a central goal. So far, the Dept. of Health and Human Services has unveiled new spending efforts to increase anti-opioid funding at city and state levels. University researchers have studied how well opioid responses do in communities, and they’ve also begun creating different opioid addiction treatments. Advocacy groups (like Shatterproof and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation) pursue reform from lawmakers, opioid manufacturers, doctors, and addiction treatment clinics; this usually means greater access to MATs or less stigma in medical care. Though the crisis continues, all the concerned parties are giving it all they have.
What You Can Do
Feel free to look into the resources we’ve already gathered. You might see them next week, but feel free to visit Buprenorphine Doctors and to read through any of the treatment or recovery content that’ll answer your questions. Better yet, if you need help finding opioid addiction treatment, visit our addiction doctors and our opioid treatment centers and find a resource near you.