Despite growing awareness and an engaged society doing all it can, drug overdose deaths continue to increase significantly around the United States. From 1999 to 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 702,000 people lost their lives to a drug overdose. In 2017 alone, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, which makes it a leading cause of injury-related deaths in the country. Of the deaths, a staggering 68 percent of them involved a prescription or illicit opioid.
Despite government intervention and stricter policies, opioid-related overdose deaths rose from 2016 to 2017. A crisis that started before many affected were born has moved in phases, one more deadly than the next. The first portion of the opioid crisis began when pharmaceutical companies ensured medical doctors that opioids such as OxyContin were not addictive. It led to overprescribing by doctors for minor bouts of pain, which lead to major forms of addiction.
The next phase of the opioid crisis started when the government tightened the regulations for opioid prescribing. While this may have reduced the flow of prescription pills on the street, those addicted to the drug still needed their fix – a significant portion of these individuals moved to heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 80 percent of heroin user’s got their start from prescription opioids.
Once heroin began emerging from every which direction, dealers were searching for ways to make their product stronger – this came in the form of illicit fentanyl produced in clandestine labs. Fentanyl, to some, isn’t even considered a drug. It is poison and registers 50 times stronger than heroin. While each wave of the opioid crisis has brought more terror, it seems as though the fentanyl crisis is the nail in the coffin. People that do not get help for their addiction continue to die every day.
Fortunately, techniques for treating opioid addiction have improved significantly. Treatment programs have been more receptive to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), which has improved the lives of many. Opioid addiction is challenging to overcome, but choosing the right program can help you achieve your goals. Let’s take a look at why pairing MAT with an outpatient program is the right choice that can potentially save your life.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration highlight its effectiveness in treating opioid use disorders (OUD) while individuals are working on their recovery.
There are three drugs the FDA has approved for treating opioid addiction. These three drugs, methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, have a safe and effective history treating OUD. Anyone who seeks treatment for Opioid Use Disorder should have access to these three options. It will allow providers to work with clients by selecting the procedure best suited for their needs.
Opioid use disorders, unfortunately, are chronic in nature, which means MAT should be re-evaluated periodically. There are no guidelines that highlight how long MAT should continue, but for severe opioid users, it may continue indefinitely to curb their cravings for drugs.
As we discussed briefly, three medications have been approved for MAT. The medicines all work to achieve the same goal but work differently. Let’s take a look at how each one works.
Outpatient treatment, by definition, is a form of rehabilitation that does not require someone to live on the premises of a treatment center. The client will remain at home for the duration of their treatment. The client will make appointments at a medical facility for therapy sessions several days a week, which will vary depending on the intensity of their level of care.
Psychosocial treatment, which is known as behavioral health treatment, must be done in conjunction with MAT. Client’s that receive therapy have far better outcomes than those who don’t. The most common goals of psychosocial treatment include:
While using medications can be beneficial for those struggling with OUD, they will be less effective if you do not pair the experience with treatment. For some, that could mean outpatient, for others, it could mean a different level of intensive care. Either way, you will only be masking the problem if you use medications without getting to the root of the problem.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Types of Treatment Programs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
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
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use
Van Zee, A. (2009, February). The promotion and marketing of oxycontin: commercial triumph, public health tragedy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622774/
Opioids Portal | CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/index.html