Some Uncommon Ways To Fight The Opiate Epidemic In 2020
America has been in a long-established drug epidemic for the past 15 years some would argue. Most notably, a fight with heroin and painkillers as they are the leaders in overdose deaths and really can be blamed for the whole epidemic taking place.
The early 2000s saw a soar in the drug Oxycontin being prescribed and abused nationwide with soaring numbers. Once it was discovered that Oxycontin was basically government made heroin, people began finding ways to get more prescribed to either use themselves or sell and make a huge profit off of. The real unfortunate part is that many doctors who can prescribe medicine realized they could make tons of money by prescribing the painkillers to hundreds of people a month. It became common news by 2008 to hear about doctors getting arrested for writing way too many prescriptions and abusing the system.
By the time 2011 hit, there was an attempt to curb the opiate abuse by making medications like Oxycontin harder to obtain but also harder to abuse. Purdue released a new pill around 2011 making it harder to abuse their popular Oxycontin medication and the government introduced systems that would nationally keep track of individuals prescriptions and keeping them limited in order to prevent ‘doctor shopping’.
The result? Heroin became the most popular illicit drug in America. As a result, overdose numbers skyrocketed and continues to be a top killer. The deadly number increases every year, with 2017 featuring 70,237 overdose deaths, 47,600 of those involved opiates. An astronomical number.
What can be done about this ravaging drug epidemic in 2020? Let’s look at the options.
Medically Assisted Treatment
Slightly different than the classic inpatient treatment model. MAT is a treatment that is fueled by opiate-blocking medications. The big three are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. They are substitutes in some ways for opiates but also block a person from getting high of prescription opiates or even heroin if they try to use it while on these medications. Methadone can still produce
Methadone – This is a full opioid agonist, it fully activates opioid receptors in the brain to alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is usually dispensed in specifically designed clinics and must be picked up each day so that it is heavily controlled and people can’t abuse a high amount at the same time. Methadone is quite easily abused and the most popular choice to use in order to get off opiates these days.
Buprenorphine – This is a partial opioid agonist, it will produce opioid effects but not the same intensity as heroin or methadone. There is a ceiling effect with buprenorphine, meaning after a certain amount, you cannot produce any additiontal effects. This makes it a better option for MAT.
Naltrexone – This is an opioi antagonist, it blocks opiate effects. If you relapse while on naltrexone you will feel absolutely none of the effects of the drug that is being used to get high.
There is quite a lot of arguing about MAT. For the recovery community, many take the stance that you are not actually ‘sober’ while taking these meds because you are still dependent on them. Like other drugs, these big three involve withdrawal symptoms if they are quit cold-turkey. People who are pro MAT will argue that it saves lives and gives people who are trying to get off opiates a much better chance of doing so.
It is suggested to do MAT while doing counseling and therapy and then as you build your life you are monitored by a doctor who will ween you off of the medications.
An option that is becoming more popular these days is doing outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab is probably the best way to get help for an opiate problem but the problem for many is that not only is it very expensive, you need to completely drop everything in your life to go. Not everyone has that luxury, some people can’t afford to leave their jobs for 30 days or even worse lose their job and then come out of rehab unemployed. This is where outpatient treatment comes into play.
Not only is it a more affordable option, it also can be done while still living your life. Outpatient treatment involves going to groups several times a week. The groups are the same intensity and value as an inpatient treatment would have, but you are able to go home and work your job still. Of course, you are being held accountable by submitting to random drug tests and can face getting kicked out if you relapse multiple times.
The difficulty, of course, is trying to radically change your life and get clean from drugs while you are still likely surrounded by a lot of temptation. I have met people who got sober through outpatient treatment and no inpatient, but I have met scores of people who needed much more than what outpatient treatment offered.
The most radical of all options, harm reduction is basically the creation of established sites that allow addicts to use but in a safe environment where they will not overdose. It’s not so much an option really trying to get people to stop using opiates or heroin, but it is somewhere to minimize all the negative aspects that getting high can cause.
There is a variety of harm reduction sites only in very specific areas of the country. They will provide addicts a safe place to shoot up and prevent overdose. People who are for harm reduction say it is beneficial because harm reduction sites have plenty of information on getting help and usually have treatment options available. Some see it as enabling while others see it as saving lives, harm reduction is basically a result of the terrible toll the opiate epidemic has taken on us.
These are just some of the different options that are available to those trying to quit opiates aside from basic rehab. People have used these options all around the country to get clean and change their lives, there is no one way to get clean. If you feel you are ready to quit there are plenty of resources to find help in your area. Somegood places to start are: