Combating the Prescription Opioid Epidemic and Promoting Recovery

For more than a decade, opioid misuse and abuse has been on the rise. In recent years, it has grown so quickly and had such a profound impact that has been referred to as an opioid epidemic. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that in 2012, around 2.1 million people in the United States had a substance use disorder related to prescription opioid pain relievers. Since 1999, the number of deaths from unintentional overdoses has more than quadrupled. Prescription opioids are being prescribed at an alarming rate, increasing from approximately 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to almost 207 million prescriptions in 2013. Recognizing the detrimental effects of prescription opioid addiction, efforts have increased to try to curb this epidemic, tighten guidelines and monitor for prescriptions, and assist people in getting the help they need to overcome substance use disorders.

Why is Prescription Opioid Abuse Increasing?

Opioids are highly potent pain relievers that are also highly addictive. Oftentimes, people begin using opioids for legitimate reasons. Physicians prescribe opioids to help their patients deal with pain following serious illness, injury or surgery. Some people experience chronic pain and use opiates to help them function more effectively. However, opioids are not meant for long-term use. The longer a person uses them, the more their body builds up a tolerance. In turn, they start using high doses or taking it more often to feel the same effects. Some people also like the euphoric effect they can trigger; they continue using them even when they are not necessary.

Furthermore, some people alter how the drugs are taken to feel a faster, more intense high. In the pill form, opiates often have a time release built in. They slowly dissolve in the body and release small amounts of the drug over time. When they are crushed to be snorted, injected or smoked, this can destroy this protective barrier and allow them to feel the effects all at once. This can also increase the risk for developing an addiction as well as unintentionally overdosing.

No one starts using prescription pain relievers with the intention of becoming addicted, but it happens far too often. Many physicians have very limited training and education when it comes to addiction. They are underprepared to recognize the signs and symptoms or provide patients with access to treatment. In some cases, physicians will prescribe a medication such as Suboxone to help with withdrawal symptoms and stopping use, but then there is little monitoring, follow-up, or wraparound services that accompany it.

Even when someone with a substance use disorder wants to stop using opioids, it can be difficult. They develop a physiological addiction to the drug. They may be afraid to tell their doctor that they have a problem because they have become reliant on the drug and feel like they can function and make it through the day. Withdrawal symptoms can be painful and taxing on the body. In an effort to cope, they end up resorting back to taking opioids again.

Turning to Northbound for Addiction Treatment

While the prescription opioid epidemic is devastating, there is hope and treatment available. Recovery is possible when the right steps are taken and effective approaches are put in place. Northbound works alongside clients every step of the way, guiding them through the initial fear of detox and withdrawal, to the empowering feeling of one year of sobriety and beyond. A three-pronged approach is taken to provide comprehensive care and reduce risk of relapse.

One aspect of treatment is medical services. Northbound has a team of highly trained personnel and medical professionals who support clients throughout the recovery process. We carefully monitor the detoxification process to ensure client safety, improve comfort and reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Through the short-term use of opiate agonists such as Suboxone, clients can overcome the initial impact of withdrawal. Opiate antagonists are used to support relapse prevention by blocking opioid receptors in the brain and preventing clients from feeling the effects of opioids if they were to have a slip in the future. The medical staff continues to work with the client throughout their recovery to help curb post acute withdrawal symptoms and boost confidence. Through effective medication management and supervision, recovery is possible.

Another aspect of treatment is clinical support. It is not enough to only detox the body from addictive substances. In order to enhance recovery efforts, clients must change their thought processes, routines and overall lifestyle. Through individual therapy, group counseling, Motivational Interviewing, Trauma-Informed treatment, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), dual diagnosis treatment, and more, we address the psychological, emotional and social impact of addiction. Clients can uncover the underlying issues that have contributed to their substance use disorder and work through these challenges. Families are also educated and involved in this process so that they can be supportive of recovery efforts and create a safer environment.

Finally, we incorporate social support. It is essential that clients build a community of support. Through the 12-step program, they will create a fellowship with others who have gone through similar experiences and are at all different stages of recovery. They will have the help and guidance of a sponsor in overcoming challenges and creating a lifestyle of recovery. Clients also engage in a continuum of care at Northbound that equips them with the skills, resources and tools necessary to thrive. Whether they want to continue their education through the collegebound program, find new employment or achieve any number of other goals, there are people and resources to support these efforts. Positive change and motivation are integral parts of long-term recovery.

Northbound assists clients in creating an individualized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and goals when it comes to overcoming substance use disorders and mental health issues. Clients play a very active role, as do their families. When clients, families, therapists, physicians, staff and others work together, recovery can become more successful. If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription opioid misuse or addiction, Northbound is here to help you along with every step and make recovery possible.

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Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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