Would you pair opioid addiction and hope in the same sentence? Most wouldn’t, since the current opioid crisis has damaged the United States so badly. But this September, you can still find hope in opioid addiction recovery.
After all, this month is Recovery Month, which celebrates those in recovery from substance abuse and mental illness. It matters so much that we at Buprenorphine Doctors have written a month-long series on how it supports opioid addiction recovery. We’ve covered community, co-occurring disorders, and stigma in recovery. Now we’ll end the series with hope.
When ten of thousands of addiction recovery centers and treatment clinics across the country celebrate Recovery Month, they’re proclaiming the hope of addiction recovery. They’re highlighting the recovery so many people have already made. And if those people can begin and sustain recovery, others can join them.
Hope is inherent to Recovery Month. So what gives us hope despite the opioid crisis?
Opioid addiction takes thousands of lives per year in this country. It can be bleak, but to understand why Recovery Month’s hope is so important, we need to understand the crisis.
Here are a few statistics:
It’s not pretty. We released a run-down of the opioid crisis back in July, and federal sites like the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention release updates from their ongoing research.
This is the reality of opioid addiction. Countless individuals struggle with addiction, and countless families and friends struggle to support them as they fight it. Countless more know the toll of fatal overdoses. All of this means that we hope for opioid addiction recovery despite the bad news we learn from every new report.
There are opioid responses across the country. Most lawmakers and health professionals can agree that the crisis is severe and getting worse, which means that nearly everyone is willing to try drastic measures to combat it.
Just this month, the federal government announced $2 billion in grants for opioid response initiatives across the country. Federal funds have already arrived in New Mexico, Montana, and Oregon for those states’ opioid responses. These funds propel efforts like community-outreach opioid education, distribution of the overdose antidote naloxone, and improved medical facilities at opioid addiction treatment centers. Those improvements often mean better access to medically-assisted treatment (MAT), one of the best opioid addiction treatments available today.
But beyond just trying out new opioid responses, many teams are evaluating whether the new efforts can be improved for efficiency or impact. Researchers in New York have designed improved MAT access through emergency rooms, and while making those changes, they also plan to return and evaluate its impact at regular intervals.
Add in concerted efforts from North Carolina and Massachusetts to increase MAT access for inmates in recovery, and you’ve got three examples of the nationwide efforts of researchers to understand opioid addiction. There’s even a developing Montana experiment to possibly create an anti-opioid relapse vaccine.
All this work hasn’t been in vain. In the past few months, Minnesota and North Carolina passed new opioid response legislation. Minnesota’s law hikes fees on prescription opioid producers and uses those funds to train healthcare and law enforcement professionals in opioid addiction response. North Carolina’s law widens MAT access, streamlines its clean-syringe exchange program, and makes it easier to detect deadly fentanyl.
Both laws were only passed this last summer. We’ll have to wait and see whether these laws can slow opioid addiction and overdoses in their respective states. But together they are examples of how nationwide action can ultimately become institutional change worth hoping for. (mention decreased opioid death rates in 2018?)
One more bit of news to keep in mind: the 2018 preliminary report from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests a 5% decrease in opioid-related deaths—68,000 deaths compared to about 72,000 in 2017. Many professionals urge us to wait for the whole year’s data and caution that the projections aren’t always accurate. Only time can tell if there’s a true decrease in opioid deaths, but if there is, it’ll be the first one in nearly twenty years.
These things are done by faraway researchers and lawmakers in official institutions. Those people wear lab coats and sign bills into law. What can we do as regular people in our communities?
You could find a Recovery Month event near you and drop by. What you can expect will depend on where you go. You might hear stories from those in recovery or their family and friends, both the successes and the hardships they take on every day. You might learn about the opioid addiction response you can make, such as carrying the overdose-antidote Narcan for emergencies.
Most important is that you show up, because that by itself supports those people in your community who are currently in recovery. When they tell their stories, they should tell them to places packed full of their neighbors. That’s one way you can help this month.
We hope that all this has you anticipating new opioid response across the country. Recovery Month finds the reasons to hope for opioid recovery, and so does Buprenorphine Doctors. We provide listings of opioid treatment centers and opioid addiction doctors because we believe that there’s hope for opioid recovery, no matter who you are. And even though our Recovery Month series is now over, you can still check in again next week for our regular recovery content!