Opioids, a class of medications that doctors mainly prescribe to treat moderate-to-severe pain, have dominated national headlines for years now mainly because of the overdose deaths they have caused.
When they were introduced in the late 1990s, medical professionals were told the addiction potential was low with drugs such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), among others. The years that have passed since that time have proved otherwise.
The drugs can be therapeutic when used as prescribed. However, it turns out that these drugs’ addiction potential is high, even for people who have legitimate prescriptions. Also, overprescribing has been linked to a spike in opioid prescriptions, which some say have created a public health crisis that the nation is still struggling to address. Misuse and abuse of these medicines are still killing people today, including in Florida.
In 2018, about “68 percent of the 4,698 reported drug overdose deaths in Florida involved opioids in 2018—a total of 3,189 fatalities (and a rate of 15.8),” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Also, in 2018, 128 people in the U.S. died daily from overdoses involving opioids, data show.
Opioid addiction is challenging to overcome, but it can be treated with the right programs and services based on the individual’s needs. Read on to learn more about how you or your loved one can start recovery from these potent medications.
If you are looking into treatment options for opioid addiction, you may have heard of medication-assisted treatment or MAT for short. MAT is used to treat opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder. This treatment approach administers medicines alongside counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders, as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains.
MAT is also employed to help prevent opioid overdose, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved all medications for use in these programs. MAT combines medications with therapies and counseling to treat the “whole person.” This means an individual undergoing MAT can expect to address their addiction by learning how it affects their physical, mental, and emotional health.
People who are recovering from chronic heroin use and other prescription medications with opiate ingredients can benefit from this kind of treatment. MAT is also ideal for people who chronically relapse while trying to end their use of opiate medications or the illicit street drug heroin.
Medications such as Suboxone and buprenorphine are used to wean people off these drugs gradually. Methadone is also used in MAT programs for opioid use disorder.
In short, MAT can:
According to SAMHSA, some people have found that MAT works for them. The federal agency reports that the treatment approach has improved patient survival, increased participation and treatment retention rates, and helped reduce illicit opioid use.
Still, despite MAT’s successes, it remains underused, SAMHSA says. Concern about using medications to stop drug and alcohol use is one reason. Some say using drugs to help end drug addiction is akin to trading one addiction for another.
SAMHSA disagrees, writing, “Instead, these medications relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings that cause chemical imbalances in the body. MAT programs provide a safe and controlled level of medication to overcome the use of an abused opioid.”
While medications are used, they are weaker opioids, meaning people who take them as prescribed will not get the same high they did when using stronger opioids. Under federal law, people who undergo medication-assisted treatment must receive medical care, vocational guidance, and other services that assist them with their recovery.
If you think medication-assisted treatment is right for you, consider getting in touch with a facility that can help you move in the direction of healing. An inpatient or residential program may provide the right setting for your needs, or you may be able to receive MAT therapy in an intensive outpatient program.
Not many places in the U.S. have escaped the effects of opioid abuse, and Florida has had its share of opioid-related battles. The state was once a hot spot for “pill mills” that observers say played a key role in the increased use of opioid drugs in the early 2000s.
The state has since shut down illegal opioid-dispensing operations. It also has responded to its opioid emergency with legislation signed in 2018 that created E-FORCSE, its prescription drug monitoring program. This program limits the number of opioid prescriptions doctors can write. The measure is aimed at reducing opioid addiction and educating people about the drugs.
Other programs have also stepped up to address the opioid epidemic in Florida. One initiative is the State Opioid Response Project or SOR. According to its website, it aims to provide MAT services, prevention that aligns with evidence-based practices, and services that support recovery from substance abuse and addiction. “Treatment and recovery services target indigent, uninsured, and underinsured individuals with opioid use disorders or opioid misuse,” the program’s site says.
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SOR, which receives its funds from SAMHSA, is also working on expanding the distribution and training of the drug naloxone (known as Narcan®) to help reverse opioid overdoses.
Another statewide initiative is the Florida Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Network, which says it is “working to reduce the statewide morbidity and mortality associated with opioid use and addiction through interventions designed to prevent opioid abuse.” It also wants to build up the state’s healthcare system so that it can identify people early who may be at risk for opioid addiction.
If you or someone you love needs treatment for opioid addiction, reach out to Pathway to Hope today for a chance to start fresh. We can help you find the right opioid treatment program for your situation or at a facility in our network.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 10). Opioid Overdose Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 02). Florida: Opioid-Involved Deaths and Related Harms. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-summaries-by-state/florida-opioid-involved-deaths-related-harms
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020, April 29). Medication and Counseling Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment#medications-used-in-mat
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Information about Medication-Assisted Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/information-about-medication-assisted-treatment-mat
Terry Spencer, T. (2019, July 21). Florida 'pill mills' were 'gas on the fire' of opioid crisis. Retrieved from https://www.theledger.com/news/20190720/florida-pill-mills-were-gas-on-fire-of-opioid-crisis/1
E-FORCSE Home Page. Retrieved from http://www.floridahealth.gov/statistics-and-data/e-forcse/index.html
Florida's State Opioid Response Project. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/samh/opioidSTRP.shtml
Florida AHEC Network. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.flahecnetwork.org/