According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people in the United States die on overdosing from opioids. The opioid crisis sparked a national conversation on the need for help, and treatment is a big part of that. So many people turn to prescription medication as a way of numbing not only physical pain, but emotional pain, too. Depression, anxiety, and major life events can make the present moment a painful place to be – and medication can easily become a go-to for escaping these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. This is considered self-medication, and it becomes harmful to a person when they stop using their medication the way it was prescribed for them.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse explored 2 of the most common medications that often assist people in treatment for opioid abuse:
- Buprenorphine – a partial agonist, this drug helps prevent some of the withdrawal symptoms experienced during detoxification but has a “ceiling effect” in which the pleasurable effects associated with the drug only reach a certain point – increased dosage does not influence the intensity of effects.
- Naltrexone – an opioid antagonist, this drug decreases the desire to use opioids, and even blocks the pleasurable feelings that arise if opioids are taken.
Not everyone needs medication, but sometimes it can be beneficial for people who are experience intense withdrawal symptoms that are making it difficult to get through the day. Ultimately, it should be up to the person and their healthcare team to come up with the best plan of action.
Medication isn’t the only type of treatment that should be offered for opioid abuse; some programs only focus on the direct physical issue, but the problem is that it neglects the other aspects of a person’s life – their emotional and spiritual concerns, too. Mind Body Green describes spirituality as, “A belief in a power governing the universe that is greater than oneself, the sense of interconnectedness with all living beings, and the quest for self-knowledge, meaning, and purpose in one’s life.”
When spiritual components of recovery are involved, a person is more likely to build up their sense of connection and personal fulfillment from life – which helps eliminate that desire to fill those emotional and spiritual wounds with medication. Twelve step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) guide people through a spiritual journey in connection to God or a Higher Power. The steps lead individuals through lessons that can transform their lives – and provide them with tools for healing and inner peace.
An article titled “Addiction and Change: How Addictions Develop and Addicted People Recover”, researchers talk about some of the most common issues that lead up to the development of addiction:
- Low self-esteem
- Negative relationships with others
- Lack of purpose/achievement in life
- Low sense of personal control
- Questions surrounding a person’s identity and vague sense of self-concept
- And more
Prescription opioid use can make all of these concerns fade away, as the effects bring about relaxation and euphoria. Many people are disappointed to find that their problems do not disappear, however – they are merely put on hold. Spirituality tackles the root core of this issue by helping a person transform from the inside, out – where they can find themselves living a happy, healthy life that they’re proud of.
Numerous studies have highlighted just how impactful social support can be. In 2016, researchers from DePaul University investigated the role of social support in substance use disorder (SUD) recovery. They obtained information on 31 people living in recovery houses, and found that the more social support participants had, the more likely they were to have confidence in leading an abstinence-based lifestyle. Individuals who reported higher levels of social support also reported higher sense of community levels, and this was mostly associated with 12-step programs such as AA.
Support groups such as AA can provide easy access to peers who have gone through similar experiences, but also to role models and sponsors that can share wisdom and guidance. Recovery has its ups and downs, and it’s important to have people to turn do when things get rough. Not to mention, these same people can be incredibly excited when recovery goals are met, and new accomplishments are achieved.
Other Successful Strategies
A researcher from Harvard Kennedy School published an article last year that talked about other steps communities and individuals can take to help prevent and treat opioid addiction. Here are some other excellent strategies for our community leaders, family members, treatment centers, and neighbors to take part in:
- Education – at both the community and individual level, the only way we can combat opioid addiction is to learn more about it. We need to know the facts and how it’s affecting our nation. As they say – knowledge is power.
- Closer relationships – patients and doctors should establish clear communication practices so that everyone involved knows what’s going on; if this could be improved, we may be able to stop prescription opioid abuse before it even begins.
- Medication disposal – unfortunately, it’s all too easy for people with addiction to rummage through trash and find unused pill bottles. Family members or friends may take some pills from another relative’s medicine cabinet, making proper disposal necessary. Collection sites have become more widely talked about, with many hospitals, fire departments, and pharmacies housing these as well.
Opioid addiction isn’t an easy feat, and recovery involves a lot of patience, time, and hard work. Recovery is possible, however, and doing so could not only make a person happier and healthier – but could save their life.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers, and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.
Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.