Addiction to opiate drugs is a huge problem in the United States, as is no secret if you have been paying attention to the news at all. From all the fatal overdoses going on around the country to the high-profile death of music legend Prince, opioid addiction is a very real problem that must be faced. A solution must be found before more needless deaths occur. Different treatments are out there, but what is most effective?
Opiate Abuse Changes the Brain
When thinking about a solution, we also need to think about how opiate abuse affects the brain. Every drug, even alcohol, has short and long-term effects on the brain, and these effects create a very real chemical change that needs to be addressed to achieve sobriety. A big debate going on right now is whether it is appropriate to treat drug addiction with more drugs. On one side, drugs are the root of the issue at hand and should be eliminated completely. On the other, in a medically supervised environment, taking the right drugs the right way is a temporary crutch on the path to complete sobriety.
Medication Assisted Therapy
Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) has been used for addiction to opiate drugs because it helps reduce the cravings caused by opioid addiction. They also help to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal, which alone can cause a relapse because of their intense discomfort. With MAT, patients receive therapy hand in hand with medication, and the results are positive – in a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 50% of opioid addicts who were treated with buprenorphine or naloxone remained sober after 18 months.
The drugs used to treat opioid addiction are themselves serious medications that can cause addiction if unsupervised. With MAT and the understanding that addiction is an ongoing battle that can last a lifetime, medications can be controlled to create well-being and recovery success. Recovery is a long-term process and not a quick-fix or overnight success. Addiction always has been and still is considered taboo in our culture, but statistics on opiate use and the number of people addiction to opiate drugs suggest that we need to start making this more mainstream so that real solutions can be found.