Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — or SAMHSA – as the use of FDA-approved medications as part of the treatment process to help individuals struggling with a substance abuse disorder. Most commonly, MAT is used to treat opioid use disorders in conjunction with therapy, counseling and support groups in rehabilitation programs.

MAT used to treat opioid addiction is one of the most innovative of its forms. There are three medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction as outlined by SAMHSA:

  • Methadone — an opioid agonist distributed in clinics by professional healthcare providers. Methadone lessens the painful withdrawal symptoms from opioids while also blocking the euphoric effects of those drugs, effectively managing the individual’s symptoms from drug abuse. Methadone can come in a pill, liquid or wafer form and can last from four to eight hours. Methadone is used to help individuals as they withdraw from opioid drug abuse and approach entirely sober treatment. Methadone must be closely monitored for vulnerable patients.
  • Naltrexone — a non-addictive opioid antagonist that comes as a pill or as an injectable liquid. Naltrexone works to block opioid receptors in the brain and suppress cravings. Naltrexone works to nearly completely mute the effects of opioids, which poses potentially life-threatening danger if the individual taking Naltrexone decides to take an opioid and is unaware of the strength of the dose. For this reason, Naltrexone use is closely monitored by healthcare providers.
  • Buprenorphine — an opioid partial agonist that produces the effects of euphoria like opioids but at a weaker level. Buprenorphine is administered in three phases. The Induction phrase is closely monitored and given to a patient after abstaining from opioid use for 12-24 hours, to lessen the effects of withdrawal. The Stabilization phase is a period of maintenance to ensure the individual doesn’t relapse with their drug addiction. The Maintenance phase is a steady transition off of buprenorphine and into medically supervised withdrawal where the individual can become completely sober with as decreased discomfort as possible.

These forms of MAT have been heavily researched and are used in many credible rehabilitation programs to help individuals transition off of drug use and into sobriety. Fortunately, in recent years, government programs have come to widely support the use of MAT to address opioid addiction and support recovery. As stated in the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Testimony on Addressing the Opioid Crisis in America, [An] issue is a lack of health system and healthcare provider capacity to identify and engage individuals, and provide them with high-quality, evidence-based opioid addiction treatment, in particular the full spectrum of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). It is well-documented that the majority of people with opioid addiction in the U.S. do not receive treatment, and even among those who do, many do not receive evidence-based care.”

Since this announcement, policy has been shifting in a positive direction to support the use of MAT and to make MAT programming more accessible to a more diverse range of populations. In his 2017 budget, former President Obama set aside a $1.1 billion budget towards tackling the opioid epidemic — with much of that funding going towards MAT treatment and research.

In tandem, in April of 2018, the National Institute of Health (NIH) launched the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, which is “an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. This Initiative will build on extensive, well-established NIH research, including basic science of the complex neurological pathways involved in pain and addiction, implementation science to develop and test treatment models, and research to integrate behavioral interventions with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD),” the NIH site explains. This program was part of current President Trump’s approval of a $1 billion budget to combat the national opioid epidemic.

However, it hasn’t come without push-back. As NPR outlined in a 2016 article, “Methadone and buprenorphine, two of the drugs used for treatment, are themselves opioids. A phrase you often hear about medication-assisted treatment is that it’s merely replacing one drug with another. While doctors and scientists strongly disagree with that characterization, it’s a view that’s widespread in recovery circles.”

There’s enough to be said about negative cultural and societal perceptions of individuals with drug addiction — but for skepticism towards the use of MAT to come from within recovery programs can be especially damaging to those individuals whom the treatment would well serve.

The promising news is that many treatment centers have begun to adopt MAT programming into their treatment plans for opioid addicted individuals, largely based on government support but also proven success from it’s implementation that informed such government support.

In a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) follow-up report in 2015 that tracked the success rates of opioid users’ sobriety after being treated with MAT — the first long-term follow-up study of its kind — yielded “cause for optimism.” Of those in the study treated with MAT, 50% reported abstinence from drugs 18 months after starting therapy. After 3.5 years, the number increased to 61%, and fewer than 10% of those in the study still met the criteria for dependence on drugs.

“‘Our findings are cause for optimism for these specific patients,’ says Dr. Roger Weiss, of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who co-led the study,” the follow-up report notes.

So what exactly leads to greater success for opioid addicted individuals? It seems the leading factor is reduced suffering. By using MAT as part of a longer-term treatment plan — in conjunction with behavioral therapy, counseling, support groups, educational tools and transitional living programs — patients are able to foresee a future without addiction when the transition does not require such wrenching withdrawal. MAT assists in immediate, physical withdrawal symptoms, allowing the individual to come to a place of physical stability in order to transition into more social, psychological, behavioral and cognitive rehabilitation programming. The prospect of reducing suffering — both in the short-term and in the long-term — through science-based treatment, is nothing short of hopeful.

More and more service animals—specifically dogs— are being spotted everywhere we go.  Service animals are very useful in helping individuals with the various things they struggle with.  Service dogs or service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as “dogs (or other animal species) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” The disabilities stated include blindness, deafness, loss of limb and paralysis, as well as physical diseases such as epilepsy and diabetes. Further, service animals called “emotional support animals” can help with emotional illnesses such as anxiety and can comfort those with emotional or mental illnesses.

The ADA National Network defines a service animal as “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals.”

“The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:”

  • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks.
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work.
  • Pulling a wheelchair.
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure.
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone.
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
  • Helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.

Specifically, service animals are trained to do the things in certain aspects of life that a disabled person can’t. For instance, these animals can get clothes, open doors, navigate routes, etc.  Even more amazing is the animals that help individuals deal with seizures, anxiety, diabetes, or even OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  These animals are trained to know and sense the beginning of a medical episode and warn individuals so they can take measure to prevent or lessen what is about to happen.  Having a service animal can reduce stress, soothe individuals, and for many individuals-having a service animal can give emotional support.

Service Animals and Recovery

Studies are showing more and more that service animals could positively impact those delaying with addiction recovery.  This good news shows that the soothing impact of an animal companion can stop triggers, can sense oncoming anxiety attacks, and many more things to benefit those in recovery.

Many service animals help addicts make it through recovery one day at a time.  Taking care of someone else needs is also good for those in recovery and feeling unconditionally loved gives them an immense amount of support in return.  The reciprocal relationship of having an animal that is helping to take care of an addict while the addict takes care of the animal is shown to be very beneficial.  Service animals don’t judge based on a person’s past and are more than happy to forge a new future together with those they are helping through recovery.  Many find that having a service animal is the final piece that gives them purpose as well as hope during their addiction recovery.

Oftentimes, for individuals with substance abuse concerns, one challenge can be the seemingly daunting nature of the care. For them, one option might be outpatient drug rehab.

The USA.gov site states: “Substance abuse is the misuse of alcohol (including underage drinking), use of illegal drugs, and the improper use of prescription or over-the-counter medications. It can damage your health and well-being at any age. Find treatment and recovery services for substance abuse, get help setting up a drug-free workplace, and learn how to prevent drug and alcohol problems.”

Of course, “outpatient treatment varies in the types and intensity of services offered,” writes the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The agency further notes: “Such treatment costs less than residential or inpatient treatment and often is more suitable for people with jobs or extensive social supports. It should be noted, however, that low-intensity programs may offer little more than drug education. Other outpatient models, such as intensive day treatment, can be comparable to residential programs in services and effectiveness, depending on the individual patient’s characteristics and needs. In many outpatient programs, group counseling can be a major component. Some outpatient programs are also designed to treat patients with medical or other mental health problems in addition to their drug disorders.”

Of course, one challenge can be identifying: What are some signs and symptoms of someone with a drug use problem? For this, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that “people with drug problems might not act like they used to. They might:”

  • change their friends a lot
  • spend a lot of time alone
  • choose not to spend time with family and friends like they used to
  • lose interest in their favorite things
  • not take care of themselves—for example, not take showers, change clothes, or brush their teeth
  • be really tired and sad
  • have changes in eating habits (eating more or eating less)
  • be very energetic, talk fast, or say things that don’t make sense
  • be in a bad mood
  • quickly change between feeling bad and feeling good
  • sleep at strange hours
  • miss important appointments
  • have problems at work or at school
  • have problems in personal or family relationships

Outpatient Drug Rehab

How can someone know if outpatient drug rehab is right for them? What can it look like? It’s important to do the research, ask questions, seek help, and find the right solution. As we note: Since virtually all addictions, chemical or otherwise, are rooted in some form of co-occurring psychological disorder, it takes both time and supportive therapy to identify and address the root causes of your addiction.

Further, the outpatient drug rehab experience is designed with a “treatment / life” balance in mind.

Done right, individuals will receive effective and sometimes intense group and individual therapy, but in an outpatient structure, so they can continue to work their regular jobs and spend time with  family while getting the help they need.

With marijuana use growing in legality and acceptance, what is the role for marijuana rehab?

The headlines around marijuana use can be found nearly every day. One recent example: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson talked openly about smoking daily.

However, we know marijuana is addictive. As we’ve noted: “While not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted and won’t need marijuana rehab, when a user begins to seek out and take the drug compulsively, that person is said to be dependent on the drug or addicted to it.”

Indeed, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that “Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug (22.2 million people have used it in the past month) according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.3 Its use is more prevalent among men than women—a gender gap that widened in the years 2007 to 2014.”

Further, Marijuana use is widespread among adolescents and young adults.

DrugAbuse.gov continues: “According to the Monitoring the Future survey—an annual survey of drug use and attitudes among the Nation’s middle and high school students—most measures of marijuana use by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders peaked in the mid-to-late 1990s and then began a period of gradual decline through the mid-2000s before leveling off. Most measures showed some decline again in the past 5 years. Teens’ perceptions of the risks of marijuana use have steadily declined over the past decade, possibly related to increasing public debate about legalizing or loosening restrictions on marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. In 2016, 9.4 percent of 8th graders reported marijuana use in the past year and 5.4 percent in the past month (current use). Among 10th graders, 23.9 percent had used marijuana in the past year and 14.0 percent in the past month. Rates of use among 12th graders were higher still: 35.6 percent had used marijuana during the year prior to the survey and 22.5 percent used in the past month; 6.0 percent said they used marijuana daily or near-daily.”

More reporting on marijuana addiction has come out as its use becomes more popular.

The Washington Post reports: “Many people are unaware of marijuana addiction. But in the public health and medical communities, it is a well-defined disorder that includes physical withdrawal symptoms, cravings and psychological dependence. Many say it is on the rise, perhaps because of the increasing potency of genetically engineered plants and the use of concentrated products, or because more users are partaking multiple times a day.”

In fact, the Post notes that “According to Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 2.7 million Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for marijuana dependence, second only to alcohol dependence.”

The piece quotes a physician who has been treating addiction: “There should be no controversy about the existence of marijuana addiction. We see it every day. The controversy should be why it appears to be affecting more people.”


Helping Others in Recovery While Still Taking Care of Yourself

It’s easy to focus all of our time and attention on helping our loved ones through drug addiction recovery.  In fact, sometimes we forget about taking care of ourselves because we spend so much time and energy supporting our their process.  But taking care of yourself while helping others through recovery is very important.  Too often, those taking care of an individual in recovery allow themselves to fall to the bottom of their list of priorities.

Sometimes, people think they will take care of things regarding themselves once their loved one is done with recovery.  Supporting loved ones in recovery takes a lot of time and effort and emotional energy.  But, thinking that you’ll handle things in your own life once your loved one recovers often causes individuals to be reactive, frustrated, and/or unnecessarily anxious.  If you prioritize your time to include some self care while helping your loved one through recovery, it is likely you will feel less stress, be more positive and encouraging, and be more calm and caring.

A great example of this is the safety announcement on airplanes.  The flight attendant ask us to put our oxygen mask on first and then to place the mask on those who cannot do so for themselves.  This example illustrates just how important it is for us to take care of ourselves when trying to help another individual.  Doing things to uplift and enhance your life can help you cope and deal with the addiction of your loved one.  Often, individuals feel selfish doing things they did before they were involved in helping someone through recovery like attending movies or going shopping.  They seem to think they don’t deserve to have fun since their loved one may be suffering.  Further, parents of children in recovery may feel guilt— feeling they should have done more to prevent the addiction— and cannot allow themselves to live a normal fulfilled life while their child recovers.  These feelings of not allowing oneself to continue normally will only impede your loved one.  Continuing to foster other friendships is also key— not allowing yourself to become completely consumed with your loved ones’s recovery.  Finding joy and self fulfillment can hep you to be more stable as you aid your loved one in navigating through recovery.

Knowing that you are happy and healthy can help your loved one want the same thing for themselves. The path of recovery may be longer than you planned on and taking care of yourself along the way while helping your loved one sets an important example and is essential to your well being too.

NSS-2 Bridge: A New Device Approved to Aid in Opioid Withdrawals

The innovative NSS-2 Bridge is a new de vice recently approved by the FDA to aid in opioid withdrawal pain.  For many this is very exciting news!  The bridge looks similar in size to a hearing aid.  It fits behind the ear with attached wires that connect to brain nervous.  Originally created to lessen chronic pain, epilepsy, and surgery soreness, the NSS-2 Bridge has now been approved for opioid withdrawal pain as well.

This is a breakthrough for many individuals who have feared the painful withdrawal from addictive opioids.  Developed by Dr. Arturo Taca, a certified addictionologist in Missouri, it costs between $500-600.  The Bridge sends electrical impulses to the brain and branches of nerves.

Many individuals have unsuccessfully attempted to battle opioid addictions but the pain of withdrawal often stops the process.  People report withdrawal symptoms that are extremely intense and have nausea, shakes, chills, and anxiety as well.  Reports of the device usage indicate that within only 30 minutes of withdrawal symptoms forming, the NSS-2 Bridge through the electrical impulses, lowers heart rate, lessens or erases anxiety symptoms, and lessens nausea.  Although the drug remains in the individual’s systems until complete withdrawal is over, the symptoms are extremely lessens or are simply not felt due to the device.

Some individuals report that the device has allowed them to feel hop for the first time since becoming addicted to opioids, although it will not prevent relapse.  Being able to work through the physical symptoms of withdrawal much easier also gives individuals who have become addicted to opioids energy to work through the emotional and mental side of recovery due to the use of the new NSS-2 Bridge.

Outpatient Recovery: Taking Precautions

After finishing inpatient drug rehab, many individuals are involved in some sort of outpatient recovery. The amount of intensity involved in the outpatient process depends upon the individual and his/her goals. It’s key that precautions are taken to avoid relapse into addiction while in outpatient recovery.

“(Matthew) Perry’s troubles with alcohol and prescription painkillers kicked into high gear during his years as one of TV’s ‘Friends,’ but treatment helped him create a healthy new normal. Today, he’s a fierce champion of treatment for addiction rather than incarceration. Helping those who share his struggles, he told People magazine in 2013, is the ‘thing I like the most about me.’” (elementsbehavioralhealth.com) Perry says, “When you’re having a bad day, the best thing you can do is call somebody and ask them how they’re doing, and actually pay attention and listen to the answer to get out of your own head.” Taking these kind of precautions, like Matthew Perry did when he focused on helping someone else through a bad day, can really strengthen outpatient recovery.

Often, during inpatient recovery, individuals recognize people and relationships that encourage drug use in their lives., its important to take precautions and have a full awareness of those individual who may trigger

drug abuse in one’s future. Often, these coping tactic with individuals who may present these triggers are dealt with in outpatient recovery. In this way, a process can be in place to remove oneself from triggering friends and situations. Other tri

ggers, such as visiting certain locations or driving certain vehicles, or eating specific foods, can also be discussed and examined so

preventative measures can be put into place when those situations arise.

When it comes to addiction recovery it doesn’t matter if you’re a famous celebrity or the guy down the street, any precaution to stay sober is what is needed for lasting outpatient recovery.

source: elementsbehavioralhealth.com

Family Therapy is Important in Recovery

Recovery from addiction often begins on an individual level but is most often improved when families get involved in strengthening and supporting the person in recovery. Addiction is referred to as a “family disease” because it impacts every member of the family in some way. Further, addiction can be triggered or perpetuated by family issues or contention as well. Thus, successful addiction recovery often involves family therapy to strengthen the individual in recovery.

Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, in the article Family Therapy: A Vital Part of Addiction Treatment, indicates that “Family therapy refers to a group of treatment styles that target the group rather than the individual within the group. All of the styles are based on the notion that families share a connection, and by modifying one component of the system, you can affect the other components. This means the health of a family can play a major role in the success of recovery” (Eric Patterson, drugabuse.com).

Family therapy can be combined with other types of therapy. In other words, if an individual is in recovery and is participating in individual therapy, they need not stop that to join in family therapy sessions as well. Just as group therapy is often used in addiction recovery (where individuals who are in recovery go to therapy together), family therapy can be participated in simultaneously with individual therapy. Further, sometimes the issues that a family struggles with can be resolved or worked on in family therapy which can prevent further members from struggling with addiction and can strengthen the family into a more cohesive unit to support and lift. Often, it is also healing for family members to discuss how an addict’s behaviors have impacted them as well— even though they may not have struggled with addiction.

As far as the benefits of family therapy are concerned, Patterson offers the following key points about benefits of family therapy in recovery:

  • Assists the substance user to gain awareness of their needs and behaviors.
  • Improves the mental and physical state of the entire family unit.
  • Permits family members to gain self-care interventions to improve their own well-being.
  • Improves communication styles and relationship quality.
  • Helps families understand and avoid enabling behaviors.
  • Addresses codependent behavior that may be preventing recovery.
  • Helps to learn and understanding the systems in place that support and deter substance use.
  • Prevents the substance use from spreading throughout the family or down through future generations.

Overall, family therapy in recovery is often a vital part of an individual’s success in

overcoming addiction.

Benzo Use on the Rise?

A recent article published in the American Journal of Public Health titled, Increasing and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996–2013, by Marcus A. BachhuberMD, MSHP, Sean HennessyPharmD, PhD, Chinazo O. CunninghamMD, MS, and Joanna L. StarrelsMD, MS indicates that benzo use is on the rise in a big way in the US.

The study examined correlations and trends in benzo prescriptions and overdoses in US adults. Benzodiazepines are defined by webmd.com as, “a type of medication known as tranquilizers. Familiar names include Valium and Xanax. They are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. When people without prescriptions obtain and take these drugs for their sedating effects, use turns into abuse.” The aforementioned study found that the increase in adults filling benzo prescriptions from 1996 to 2013 was 4.1% and the overdose rate increased significantly (more than 5 times the rate at the start of the study) as well although overdoses from benzos seems to have plateaued. The study further showed that the quantity of filled benzo prescriptions is also increasing. Although a plateau seems to be happening among most adult individuals in the US, the study pointed to evidence that overdose in older adults and racial/ethnic minorities is continuing to rise. Further, there were no signs of decreased use of benzos throughout the course of the study.

This information is important in that it shows a need to reduce benzo prescriptions or at least improve the safety of their use. The study indicated that, “In 2013, an estimated 22 767 people died of an overdose involving prescription drugs in the United States. Benzodiazepines, a class of medications with sedative, hypnotic, anxiolytic, and anticonvulsant properties, were involved in approximately 31% of these fatal overdoses.”


Relaxation in Recovery

. Many activities and practices of relaxation and meditation are designed to release tension from the body. In recovery, releasing tension can have many desirable outcomes.

Alcoholrehab.com indicates the following benefits of using relaxation techniques:

“* Relief of stress

* Sleeping better at night

* Improved concentration

* Increased ability to learn

* Improved memory

* Increased blood flow to major muscles

* Reduced feelings of anxiety

* Increased confidence in the face of challenges

* Reduced feelings of anger and frustration

* Combats hypertension (high blood pressure)

* Slowed the heart rate

* Slowed respiration

* Relieved muscle tension

* Reduced pain intensity

* Reduced hyperactivity in children

* Improved immune system functioning

* Reduced risk of developing heart problems or suffering a stroke

* Looking healthier and fresher

* Improved mental health

Generally speaking, recovery is stalled or halted when individuals are experiencing excessive amounts of stress. Stress is how the body deals with demand and in addiction, there is a prevalence of excessive demand. Many times, then individuals feel stressed, they turn to their addiction to cope. Deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, listening to relaxing music, meditation, guided imagery, and mindfulness are some of the powerful relaxation activities that can enhance recovery.

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