The Complications Of Treating Opioid Addiction

The Complications Of Treating Opioid Addiction

By The Fix staff 03/20/17

People who are addicted to opioids need comprehensive, holistic treatment that addresses their addiction as well as any underlying issues.

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In 2015, an American died of a drug overdose every ten minutes. That means that 52,000 people died because of drugs, and nearly two-third of those deaths were attributed to opioids. The nation’s ongoing struggle with opioid addiction shows just how essential addiction prevention and inpatient treatment programs are.

"We can turn the tide against drugs and addiction again in America just like we did previously," Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a New Hampshire crowd recently. "We have proven that education and telling people the truth about drugs and addiction will result in better choices. Drug use will fall. Lives will be saved. Less money will be going into cartels and the drugs gangs, weakening them."

Sessions was a surprise speaker at a New Hampshire opioid awareness summit for middle and high school students. Nationally heroin and opioid abuse has risen 33 percent in five years. However, in some states like New York, Massachusetts and other Northeastern states the rate has been much higher. New Hampshire, for example, has seen a 191 percent increase in opioid abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During his speech, Sessions acknowledged that addiction recovery is very difficult.

"A lot of people still don't realize how addictive prescription drugs can be," Sessions said. "These drugs are powerful, and opioid addiction can take hold quickly. Too many teens and adults have overdosed, and the road ahead for people fighting addiction is so tough.”

Because of the intense physical dependency that develops in people who use and abuse opioids, a quality treatment program that addresses the unique aspects of opioid addiction is essential to long-term success in recovery.

In fact, New Hampshire is considering a bill that would allow mandated treatment for people battling opioid addiction. CDC statistics demonstrate just how addictive opioids are: one in four people who take the drugs will develop an addiction to them.

Recent research has found that the opioid antidote drug naloxone reduces overdose deaths by up to 11 percent. However, after a life-saving dose of naloxone is administered, getting into a treatment program is critical, since opioid detox is not something that individuals should do on their own. 

“In the past, it was thought that if you let somebody suffer through withdrawal that will help them never to use again because it’s such a terrible experience, but that has been shown to pretty much be folklore, and it’s not true,” Dr. Louis E. Baxter Sr., president of the Professional Assistance Program of New Jersey, told Healthline.

Instead, people who are addicted to opioids need comprehensive, holistic treatment that addresses their addiction as well as any underlying issues. 

“What should be done is that when patients with opiate abuse issues present for treatment, they need to be evaluated to see if they have any significant pain issues, any chronic pain issues, and they also need to be evaluated to see if they have psychiatric issues,” Baxter said.

Many opiate addicts struggle with chronic pain, so treatment programs must address that issue proactively. A recent study showed that 43 percent of addiction patients filled an opioid prescription while in treatment, and 67 percent did so in the year following treatment. This can increase the risk for relapse.

“Our findings highlight the importance of stable, ongoing care for these patients,” said Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins who conducted the research. 

Because of the complications of treating opioid addiction, finding the right treatment program and keeping people engaged in long-term treatment is essential, according to study co-author Matthew Daubress.

“These efforts couldn’t be more urgent given how many Americans continue to die or get injured from opioids,” he said.

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