What Does Recent Evidence Tell Us About Treating Opioid Addiction?

Recent studies have produced new evidence about opioid addiction treatment. The opioid crisis continues to ravage the country. As a result, the need for better opioid addiction treatment is more important every day. After all, ineffective treatment options fail to solve the problem. Therefore, they waste resources in the fight against drug addiction.

However, the crisis is too big to allow precious resources to go to waste. But recent research offers hope. It shows the best ways to treat opioid addiction. Moreover, it gives us a better understanding of addiction. Treatment programs must use this information to get the best results for patients.

This article reviews the latest scientific evidence for opioid addiction and treatment. Use the information in this post to make informed decisions about opioid recovery and treatment for yourself or someone you care about.

The Current Opioid Crisis Situation

The media and government have been generating a lot of press regarding the opiate epidemic. The CDC reports that there were 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the US. This rate is more than three times greater than it was in 1999. A recent NIH drug abuse report found a 2.8 fold increase in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids between 2002 and 2015.  

In fact, the crisis is so bad that opioids now kill more people than breast cancer. The scope of the crisis is growing by the day. Therefore, a solid understanding of the best ways to treat opioid addiction is important. It helps save lives. It helps save families.

What are Opioids?

Opioids and Opiates are a type of drug. They are prescribed by doctors to treat pain. There are many different types of opiates and opioids. Moreover, the drugs have brand names and generic names. In fact, you might have opiates in your house now and not even realize it. Very few people know the complete opioid list. Some of the most common opiates and opioids include:

  • Vicodin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Percocet
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxycontin
  • Tramadol
  • Morphine
  • Dilaudid

These drugs treat different levels of pain. Some, like Tramadol, treat mild to moderate pain. Others, like Oxycontin, are used to treat severe pain. However, they all work the same way. Each of these drugs joins to the opioid receptors in the brain. This helps the brain ignore pain. It also causes the brain to produce lots of extra dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical that makes people feel happy. The body naturally produces dopamine. It is part of the brain’s reward system. People get dopamine from things like eating food. However, opiates cause the brain to produce more dopamine than it normally would. People become addicted when they depend on this extra dopamine to function.

What is Causing the Opioid Epidemic?

Opioid addiction statistics show that more people abuse opioids every day. Opiate addiction occurs for many reasons. Some people turn to drugs to cope with other mental health issues. This is more common than you might think. It is known as a dual-diagnosis. These cases are very hard to solve. However, help based on evidence is the best option.

Other people take the drugs for pain. However, they form an addiction to the drug. They look for other sources of the drug. This helps drive the sale of illegal drugs. It also helps fuel the opioid epidemic.

Withdrawal is another source of the problem. When someone stops taking the drug their brain misses the extra dopamine. This results in withdrawal. These symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching

This is not a complete list. Some people don’t get any withdrawal symptoms. Others walk a harder path. One common part of withdrawal is that the person knows they can stop it by taking more of the drug.

Therefore, it creates a cycle. People begin taking an opiate. They become dependent on it. Then, they face problems when their body misses the drug. They seek out more of the drug to make those problems go away.

However, abusing illegal opiates to stop withdrawal symptoms increases the brain’s need for the drug. This makes the addiction worse. It also makes withdrawal symptoms worse. As a result, it’s easy to see how opiate abuse becomes an opiate addiction.

Current Opioid Addiction Treatment Evidence

The government has given more resources to studying the current opioid epidemic. The Department of Health and Human Services is a key actor. It recently renewed the epidemic’s status as a national emergency. The CDC and NIH are also focused on the problem.

The White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis reports that only 10.6% of youths and adults receive the help they need. The report goes on to say that evidence-based options can be effective. But what does the evidence say about treatment?

Nearly all studies argue that opioid replacement therapy is the best treatment. The Surgeon General advocates ORT options for patients. Moreover, studies argue that it is important to understand addiction as a disease that can be treated.

However, very few treatment programs offer all three ORT options. The three choices are methadone, Suboxone, and Vivitrol. These drugs work by replacing the opiates a patient is used to getting. Moreover, they stop illegal drugs from working.

As a result, users get help with withdrawal symptoms. This makes other efforts work better. Lots of people have shared their stories of how these options helped them overcome opioid abuse.

Let’s look at the options.

Methadone for Opioid Abuse

Doctors have used methadone for opioid abuse since 1947. Therefore, there are many studies on it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that people stay in treatment 4.44 times more often when given methadone.

Methadone works by filling opiate receptors in the body. This lowers withdrawal symptoms. It also stops other opioids from working. As a result, patients have an incentive to stay clean. Moreover, methadone works for 24 hours. This means that patients benefit from reduced withdrawal symptoms every day.

Suboxone for Opioid Abuse

Suboxone is similar to methadone. It works the same way. The medicine joins the opioid receptors in the body. It also stops other drugs from joining to them. Therefore, it lowers withdrawal issues. This helps patients fight their addiction. However, there are some key differences between the two. One of the most important differences is that Suboxone has other properties as well.

Specifically, Suboxone contains a drug called naloxone. This drug is used to reverse an overdose. It removes chemicals from opioid receptors. However, it only does this when injected. Therefore, Suboxone can’t be injected. This lowers the risk of abuse.

Vivitrol for Opioid Abuse

Vivitrol is a bit different from the other two ORT options. It blocks opiate receptors in the brain. The drug also stops the opiates from making extra dopamine. This is the chemical that makes you feel good when you take drugs. Therefore, stopping this process makes it easier to stop taking illegal drugs.

Vivitrol comes as a pill or as an injection. It can’t be used with other ORT options. Therefore, people must be clean before they start using Vivitrol. However, the drug works for 30 days. This sets it apart from the other options. Patients must take the other options every day. As a result, Vivitrol is an increasingly popular option to help patients stay clean.

Greater Access to Opioid Abuse Treatment Programs

There is one thing every report agrees on. There needs to be more access to treatment programs. The 10.6% figured cited by the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis shows that these options aren’t used enough. This means patients are more likely to relapse.

Addiction programs do more than offer medicine. Recent addiction studies show that there are many ways these programs help people overcome their disease. These studies look at what works to help addiction. They seek to answer the question “Are there proven treatments for opioid addiction?”. They haven’t found a sure way to beat addiction. However, they have found the treatment options that are most likely to work.

The Need for Evidence-Based Opioid Addiction Treatment Programs

Recent reports and studies agree on many issues. One of the biggest problems is a lack of evidence-based addiction programs. People understood addiction as a moral problem in the past. As a result, they based their approach to addiction on morality instead of science. This approach fails. It doesn’t provide effective treatment. It also creates an environment that stigmatizes substance abusers. As a result, people did not seek the treatment they need.

There has been a lot of progress in moving away from understanding addiction as a moral failure. However, the stigma remains. Opiate addiction programs that use evidence work to remove the stigma. This increases the odds that people will seek help.

Moreover, using evidence creates better results. Studies look at what works. They also see what doesn’t work. They find things in common with effective approaches. The studies then recommend a path forward based on these insights.  

Using Recent Evidence to Treat Opioid Addiction

Every part of society needs to do more to fight opiate addiction. The private sector is in a good position to turn studies into action. Health insurance companies, patient advocates, and doctors need to pay attention to the latest research. They can use this research to provide better options for patients. Some insurance companies already focus on evidence-based addiction treatment.

The federal and state governments must provide money for more research. They also need to give help to people who need it. The government can reward programs that use evidence-based therapies. It can also offer rewards for successful programs.

There is no silver bullet for addiction treatment. Every person is different. Every person’s addiction is different. However, some methods work better than others. As a country, we need to focus our efforts on the options that work the best. Addiction is a terrible disease. But evidence-based treatment is the best way to end it.

2018-04-09T01:35:26+00:00April 11th, 2018|Opiates & Heroin|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. […] that the brain must be fully “integrated” if an addict is going to stay clean in the long run. Opioid addiction can have all kinds of strange effects on the brain and its thought processes. As she explains, the […]

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