Treatment & Recovery
The best way to prevent opioid overdose is to get help for an opioid abuse problem right away. Addiction treatment programs can help individuals cope with dependence and promote recovery. Entry into a certified substance abuse treatment program with evidence-based treatment strategies minimizes the potential for future opioid overdoses.
What are my options?
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans cycle through expensive addiction treatment programs without evidence-based methods and immediately relapse the moment they are released. Even worse, many people don’t get treatment at all: they don’t know where to get help, they are afraid to seek treatment, they don’t know how they’ll afford care. Americans are needlessly dying because they don’t get the care they need.
Treatment can help struggling opioid users address the underlying causes of their addiction, while building the skills to manage cravings and resist triggers preventing future substance abuse. There are thousands of programs designed to fit individual needs. There are a few main options:
Involves an extended stay (~1 month- 1 year) at a live-in treatment facility, hospital or clinic. These programs provide a sober environment for recovering individuals with a large support staff and community for greater oversight during their recovery. They will work through detox, treatment, and recovery while living at the center, allowing them to focus completely on their recovery without the stress of potential triggers they might encounter while undergoing treatment living at home. Read more
Allows people to live at home as they work through treatment. These programs require regular check-ins at a treatment facility, so people opting for these programs must trust their ability to self-motivate in the face of triggers at home to use. Outpatient treatment is best for people willing to attend regular appointments and counseling sessions. Since there is no overnight care, it’s important to have a stable living environment, reliable transportation, and supportive family or friends. Read more
For when immediate admission to other care isn’t available. Many inpatient facilities have long waitlists, interim care provides daily medication and emergency counseling. This can be a helpful bridge from beginning recovery to admission to a regular outpatient, inpatient, or residential setting.
A temporary space to stay while transitioning from an intensive treatment setting. Sometimes called a halfway house or sober living facility.As part of the path to independent living, these facilities support people in recovery with temporary places to live. They may also have support programs around employment and education, or case managers to help residents succeed during and after their stay.
These options are generally free and less intensive than treatment programs. Support groups can be a tremendous help to people who are unable to regularly get to a treatment facility or as a supplement for those having just left inpatient care or transitional housing. These community programs can also help recovering individuals build a support network of sober-minded peers which helps with adjusting into abstinence. Read more
THE FIRST 3 MONTHS
Patients have very different recovery journeys unique to their individual challenges and the kind of treatment they received. And many patients will struggle to adjust back into their “normal” lives post-treatment. For those coming from in-patient treatment centers, re-exposure to the stresses and temptations that led to initial substance use means they will need to rely on the coping skills they learned in treatment and find support systems. They’ll need to adjust to these changes and make efforts to avoid relapse.
Addiction is complex and the journey to recovery often involves setbacks and relapse. Rates of relapse are between 40 and 60 percent, very similar to rates of relapse with other chronic diseases like hypertension, asthma or type I diabetes. Should opioid misusers relapse, they’re more susceptible to overdose for the simple reason that their tolerance isn’t what it once was. A dose they may have once used regularly can now be fatal.
Situations that present this type of overdose suicide risk include:
- Detoxing without any accompanying treatment.
- Having been recently incarcerated resulting in decreased tolerance.
- Abruptly stopping certain medications that aid recovery.
- A relapse following treatment or any prolonged period of not using.
Research has shown that the risk of relapse and accidental overdose is highest in the first 1-3 months following addiction treatment. But the same studies show that persons who continue some form of treatment in the first 90 days after treatment have a greater chance at maintaining recovery over their lifetime. So getting the support you need right out of the gate is critical.
Each patient should meet with their doctor or addiction specialist to discuss personal needs and decide on an individualized plan of action. This is an important step on the first day of post-treatment recovery, and important for checking in over a lifetime. Recovery is a never ending process.
Successful long-term recovery from opioid addiction isn’t just a matter of never using opioids again- although that’s of course a major part of it. Ultimately, recovery from substance abuse is about someone keeping a steady job, having healthy relationships, and living a meaningful and rewarding life without drugs.
Every person in recovery is different, and will need a different plan for long term success. Plans may include medication therapy, behavioral therapy, job support, family counseling, or peer support. The importance of cultivating a sense of purpose outside addiction treatment is also critical to ongoing recovery.
For example, the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report “Overcoming Addiction” identified two basic steps that are necessary for recovery: replacing addiction with other interests, and exercising. Activities like hobbies and exercise help people invest in other people, who will in turn invest in you.
No matter what you choose, having a support system is vital to maintaining sobriety. Talk with a healthcare professional about whether incorporating some of these steps in a treatment plan can help you or your loved one, as you work toward sustained recovery.
RISK OF SUICIDE
Opioid misusers are also at a increased risk of suicide, both before, during, and after treatment. Over the last 15 years or so, opioid-related suicides have doubled. This is similar to the spike in drug-related overdoses, which also commonly involve prescription opioids.
In a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, experts surveyed over 40,000 people to find that prescription opioid abuse increases suicidal ideation by 40 to 60 percent. Furthermore, people misusing prescription opioids every week were 75 percent more likely than the general populace to plan or attempt suicide. Risk factors are defined as characteristics or conditions that increase the chance of danger.
While prescription drug abuse and suicide have many unique risk factors, here are some of those which are shared:
- family history of suicide and/or substance abuse
- personal history of mental illness
- chronic pain or other physical ailment
- stressful life events (divorce, financial crisis, personal loss)
Other risk factors for suicide include having access to weapons, previous suicide attempts, family history of child maltreatment, bullying and/or relationship problems, history of alcohol and substance abuse, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and exposure to another person’s suicide.
Risk factors more specific to prescription drug abuse may include having medications from multiple doctors or pharmacies, taking large doses of a prescription, living in rural areas and having a low-income.
If you or someone you know may be suicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is on-call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The call is free and you will be connected to local resources that will provide support.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional.