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Opioid addiction treatment is being taken seriously. Recent findings have led to an increase in availability of opioid treatment centers and strengthened research on how this kind of substance abuse can be treated to save countless lives and curtail the gateway from prescription opioids, like oxycodone, to synthetic opioids like heroin.

(For more information, see “The Opioid Epidemic: Role for Substance Abuse Programs)

This year, the White House declared opioid addiction to be a public health emergency. The announcement was based on devastating numbers surrounding Americans and opioid use: According to 2017 data, 11.4 million Americans have misused prescription opioids; 2.1 million Americans have an opioid abuse disorder; and 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdose.

The alarming numbers surrounding opioid misuse have provided an opportunity for Americans to take a harder look at the realities of addiction. In response to the opioid crisis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set five priorities:

  1. Improve access to treatment and recovery services
  2. Promote the use of overdose-reversing medications
  3. Strengthen public health awareness of communities at-risk or facing opioid addiction
  4. Provide support for more research on addiction
  5. Advance practices for pain management, as pain is often a  reason for individuals to begin misusing opioids.

Opioid Addiction Treatment: Approaches

But what makes opioid addiction so urgent to address is the gripping nature of the addiction.

Opioids are a class of drugs that act in the nervous system to produce feelings of pleasure and pain relief,” the Genetics Home Reference, a government site dedicated to expanding knowledge on genetic conditions. “Opioid addiction is characterized by a powerful, compulsive urge to use opioid drugs, even when they are no longer required medically. Opioids have a high potential for causing addiction in some people, even when the medications are prescribed appropriately and taken as directed. Many prescription opioids are misused or diverted to others. Individuals who become addicted may prioritize getting and using these drugs over other activities in their lives, often negatively impacting their professional and personal relationships. It is unknown why some people are more likely to become addicted than others.”

Because of the lack of existing knowledge as to why some people become more dependent than others on opioids, and the high-risks of the addiction, treatment is carefully tailored depending on specific misuse. Treatment can involve many aspects of other personalized addiction recovery, such as outpatient support, counseling, behavioral therapy and sobriety. But in addition, the case for pharmacological treatment has become increasingly recommended and helpful for those battling addiction.

Depending on the severity of the addiction and the opioid at misuse, medications such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone may be administered to combat the physical grippings of opioid addiction. Methadone treatment has actually increased more in the past four years nationwide than it has in the past decade, as it has proven success on many counts.

Best practice states that tailored treatment geared towards the individual’s specific circumstances, physical and mental state and depth of addiction is the most successful. Having a personalized recovery plan, with help from professionals, can help keep addiction at bay.