Staying Alive: How To Fight An Opioid Addiction

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Rule No. 1: Stay alive.

If you or a liked one needs to beat an opioid habit, first be sure you have a helpful provide of naloxone, a drugs that may reverse an overdose and save your life.

“Friends and families need to keep naloxone with them,” says Dr. David Kan, an habit drugs specialist in Walnut Creek who’s president of the California Society of Addiction Medicine. “People using opioids should keep it with them, too.”

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More than 42,200 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, victims of a disaster that’s being fueled by the rise of a robust artificial opioid known as fentanyl, which is 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin. Rock stars Prince and Tom Petty had fentanyl of their programs once they died.

People can develop into hooked on opioids via long-term use, or misuse, of prescription painkillers. In most circumstances, that leads to heroin use, in response to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

If you’re prepared to deal with your individual habit, or that of a liked one, know that you could be not succeed — at first. You in all probability gained’t have the ability to do it with out outdoors assist or medicines. And you’ll in all probability should take these medicines for years — or the remainder of your life.

“Getting over a drug addiction is a process. There are going to be ups and downs,” says Patt Denning, director of medical companies and coaching on the Center for Harm Reduction Therapy in San Francisco and Oakland. “We need to hang with people while they’re struggling. It might take awhile.”

That’s why Denning and others recommend you begin with having naloxone readily available, which may help you keep alive via the method.

Last 12 months in San Francisco, about 1,200 probably deadly overdoses had been reversed by common of us administering naloxone, not medical doctors, police or paramedics, Kan says.

Naloxone, which may be administered as a nasal spray or injection, is on the market with out a prescription in more than 40 states, together with California. Ask your pharmacy if it shares the drug. Needle trade packages additionally provide the remedy at no cost, Denning says, as do some public well being clinics.

Rehab Alone Doesn’t Work

People hooked on opioids face staggering relapse charges of 80 to 90 p.c inside 90 days if they struggle short-term rehab or detox packages that wean them off the medicine with out help from medicines, says Richard Rawson, a UCLA psychiatry professor emeritus.

Rawson warns that rehab can even enhance the danger of an overdose, as a result of your physique’s tolerance to opioids is decrease after you withdraw from them.

“If you leave rehab and take the same dose you used to take, you’re not just going to get high, you’re going to be dead,” he says.

Instead of treating opioid habit like a curable sickness, he and different consultants liken it to lifelong, continual situations resembling diabetes that require ongoing administration.

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“This isn’t going to be one visit. If you have an addictive disorder, this is going to be the rest of your life,” says Dr. Stuart Gitlow, an habit specialist in New York City who’s previous president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Chronic diseases usually require remedy. Rawson and others level to 2 medicine specifically which will assist break your habit: buprenorphine and methadone.

There is a few unwarranted stigma connected to those medicine, together with a perception that “you’re just exchanging one addiction for another,” Kan says.

While these medicines are literally opioids themselves, they management craving and withdrawal — and assist stop the compulsive and harmful conduct usually related to habit.

They additionally cut back your possibilities of an overdose, Rawson says. And they defend you from different dangers that include opioid habit, resembling publicity to blood-borne infections from sharing needles, together with HIV and hepatitis C.

Essentially, the medicines make you “comfortable enough physically” to confront the problems behind your habit, from anxiousness and despair to post-traumatic stress dysfunction, Denning says.

The federal authorities agrees.

“Abundant scientific data show that long-term use of maintenance medications successfully reduces substance use, risk of relapse and overdose, associated criminal behavior, and transmission of infectious disease, as well as helps patients return to a healthy, functional life,” in response to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report on addiction in America.

To get hold of methadone, you should go to a clinic ruled by state and federal guidelines.

“These clinics are not particularly patient-friendly. You have to go every day. You can’t travel,” Denning says. “It takes over your life.”

Buprenorphine, alternatively, may be obtained from medical doctors, together with major care physicians, who’ve undergone coaching and acquired federal approval.

“The beauty of buprenorphine is it can be prescribed like any medication out of a doctor’s office,” Denning says.

To find a doctor who prescribes buprenorphine, go to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration web site at and click on on the “Find Help & Treatment” hyperlink from the house web page. You can search by state and ZIP code.

Though you possibly can obtain care out of your major care doctor, Gitlow recommends that you just additionally seek the advice of with an habit specialist.

In California, find one by visiting the California Society of Addiction Medicine’s web site at and clicking on the “Physician Locator” tab.

If you don’t stay in California, examine the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry’s web site at and click on on the “Patient Resources” tab on the house web page.

After You Start The Medication …

Once sufferers begin one of many medicines, it’s not clear how lengthy they need to keep on — a query that deserves additional analysis, Rawson says.

“The longer people stay on treatment, the lower the death rate is and the more they’re able to function,” he says.

Often sufferers face stress from members of the family, who badger them to get off the medicines although it might be higher for them to remain on them, Kan says.

“We don’t say to patients who suffer from diabetes … ‘Have you changed your diet enough so you can get off insulin?’” he says.

Kan and different habit specialists typically don’t encourage remedy therapy alone, irrespective of how lengthy you keep on it. Pairing the remedy with remedy or different help, together with 12-step packages resembling Narcotics Anonymous, can cut back relapse charges additional, they are saying.

Al-Anon and Nar-Anon teams additionally may be useful assets for households, Kan provides.

“12-step is something I encourage for everybody. I don’t consider it a treatment, per se. It’s like mutual support,” he says.

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This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Emily Bazar:”>, @emilybazar

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