*If you are struggling with opioid use and want treatment, call or text us at (866) 679-0831. We can help today.
The United States is in the middle of an opioid crisis and more than 3 million Americans have had or do suffer from opioid use. Opioids, regardless if prescribed by physicians to treat pain or bought on the street, will lead to physical dependence with prolonged use. For those who have become dependent, it can be agonizing to stop taking these drugs because of the withdrawal symptoms they experience. For some people, the use of opioids becomes compulsive, interfering with social functioning and leading to run-ins with the law, which distinguishes dependence from addiction. It is possible to use prescription opioids safely. However, some people struggle as they develop an addiction to opioids. This is referred to as opioid use disorder (OUD) and there is a spectrum of opioid use that can be classified as mild, moderate or severe.
What Is Opioid Use Disorder?
Opioid use disorder (OUD), often referred to as opioid addiction, is a disorder where an individual who is physically dependent on opioids develops functional and social impairments as a result of opioid use. The initial feelings of euphoria some people experience with opioids tend to give way to feelings of depression and anxiety when not using opioids. The short-term side effects of opioid use include drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, constipation, mood swings and changes in sleep patterns. Over time, opioid use can increase the risk of addiction, overdose, and death.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, mild severity of opioid use is experiencing 2-3 symptoms, moderate severity is experiencing 4-5 symptoms, and severe opioid use disorder is experiencing 6 or more of the following symptoms:
- Larger amounts of opioids are taken for a longer duration than prescribed.
- Continuous desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use.
- Hyperfocused on obtaining, using and recovering from the effects of opioid use.
- Intense desire to use opioids.
- Regularly not present at home, school or work.
- Inability to maintain relationships.
- Personal and professional obligations take a backseat to opioid use.
- Willingness to use opioids anywhere, at any time — even in dangerous situations.
- Knowing there’s a physical or psychological problem that could be impacted by using opioids but doing it anyway.
- Needing to use more opioids to reach the same high as when they started.
- Experiencing withdrawal when not using opioids (which include cravings, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and increased heart rate).
Who Is More At Risk for OUD?
While risk factors for OUD are still being studied by clinicians, there are some common risk factors seen in research studies. Risk factors for opioid use disorder include “past or current substance [use], untreated psychiatric disorders including , younger age”according to published research by Lynn Webster. Most importantly, social environments characterized by stress, poverty and trauma increase the risk of developing an OUD.
Treatment for OUD
There are several forms of treatment someone may receive for opioid use disorder and they largely depend on each person’s unique needs. Evidence-based approaches to treating OUD include treatment options like medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that combines medications with behavioral therapy which are more successful than either treatment method alone.
Medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) include:
- Buprenorphine (brand name: Subutex).
- Buprenorphine and Naloxone (brand names: Suboxone, Zubsolv, Bunavail).
- Injectable buprenorphine (brand name: Sublocade)
- Injectable Naltrexone (brand name: Vivitrol)
- Oral Naltrexone
These medications help individuals reduce or stop the use of opioids, prevent overdose or regain function despite ongoing opioid use. They do so by normalizing brain chemistry, relieving cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. At Better Life Partners, we offer MAT with medications containing buprenorphine and naloxone like suboxone which are shown to reduce the likelihood of overdose and negative symptoms associated with withdrawal to help people living with substance use disorder achieve their life goals..
OUD is a treatable disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) support the following as preventative methods:
- Prescription drug monitoring programs by state — tracking the use of opioids electronically.
- State prescription drug laws — legal and regulatory strategies for addressing opioid misuse.
- Requiring insurance programs to attain prior authorization and quantity limits for prescription opioids other than buprenorphine — making sure their use is medically necessary.
- Educating providers about opioid prescribing guidelines and encouraging conversations about the risks and benefits of pain treatment options.
- Creating best practices for healthcare systems to follow for prescribing opioids.
- Educating people on the safe storage and disposal of prescription opioids.
- Increasing public awareness about the risks of prescription opioids.
At Better Life Partners, we work on OUD prevention at an individual, community and state-wide level by participating in community events, hosting educational training and engaging in advocacy work throughout New England. We operate with a harm reduction philosophy, meaning we do everything in our power to keep people safe, alive and active in their community.
Harm reduction is an evidence-based approach that reduces the fear and shame associated with having a substance use disorder. It removes barriers so that people know that they can get the treatment they need, when they need it, without judgment. Whether it’s counseling or medication, being a Better Life Partners member means you’re on the road to recovery with a supportive community by your side. We operate with a non-punitive harm reduction philosophy, which means that we offer compassion and flexibility to help you achieve your goals.
Why We Say Opioid Use Disorder Instead of Opioid Addiction
Even though addiction is a treatable medical condition, people still talk about it in ways that are stigmatizing, leading to shame and negativity for those diagnosed with it. This can prevent people with any type of substance use disorder — including opioid use disorder — from seeking treatment. Using “person-first” language reduces and removes the stigma and negative bias about addiction. Saying a person is an addict or has an addiction can unfairly portray them as dangerous, incapable of treatment, or at fault for their condition. Using person-first language shows that a person “has” a problem or illness, rather than “is” the problem — because people are so much more than just their substance use.
The Care You and Your Loved Ones Need
Think you or someone you know might have opioid use disorder? We can help. Our medical and behavioral health teams offer in-person and virtual, evidence-based medication-assisted treatment options. We provide whatever it takes to help people find recovery solutions — whenever, wherever. Contact us today.