Opioid Therapy: Understanding the Problem & Therapy

In recent years, the Opioid crisis has taken a devastating toll on the United States. CDC statistics show that more than 130 people die of Opioid overdoses every day in the United States.

Those affected have steadily increased since 1999 when approximately 8,000 people died from Opioid overdose. Hundreds succumbed to co-occurring issues due to a lack of proper mental health professionals and nutrition supplements. With such an ever-growing problem, it is important to understand what goes into Opioid therapy and how to manage it safely and effectively.

Nutrition supplements, mental health professionals, medication management plans, and addiction therapy are all integral components of treating Opioid abuse or dependency. By understanding these components and their various roles in treatment, individuals suffering from dependence or addiction can receive the support and care they need to overcome their problems.

Understanding the problem

An opioid use disorder is a chronic, relapsing medical condition that affects the brain’s reward system. It occurs when someone uses opioids in a manner that causes clinically significant impairment or distress, such as tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and difficulty controlling use despite adverse consequences. Opioid use disorder gets diagnosed according to DSM-5, a guide to diagnosing mental illnesses.

When a person takes an Opioid drug, it binds to specific proteins in the brain known as Opioid receptors. This interaction triggers the release of dopamine, which produces feelings of pleasure. Eventually, people develop tolerance to opioids, meaning they must take more to achieve the same effects, leading to drug misuse or abuse.

Opioid use disorder is a growing public health issue in the United States. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported, in 2018, more than 10 million people misused prescription opioids, and over 2 million had an Opioid use disorder. Risk factors for developing an Opioid use disorder include having depression or another mental illness, a family history of substance misuse, being male, living in poverty, chronic pain or injury, and illicit drug use.

Understanding Therapy

When it comes to Opioid therapy, there is no such thing as work for all. An Opioid therapy plan must be tailored to the individual, factoring in their unique medical and mental health history and lifestyle habits.

Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines medications with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorders holistically. MAT is considered best for treating Opioid use disorder and sometimes alcohol use disorder. Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are three FDA-approved medications that form the major part of MAT. These medications work by binding to Opioid brain receptors and blocking the effects of other opioids or reducing cravings so individuals can focus on their recovery.

Cognitive Approaches

A variety of behavioral therapies can help individuals with substance use disorders develop coping skills, understand triggers for their substance use, and manage stress, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Contingency Management (CM), and 12-step facilitation. These therapies focus on helping the individual identify the underlying causes of their disorder, get professional guidance from mental health professionals, and develop healthier ways of managing them.

Support Groups

The purpose of support groups is to provide a safe place for individuals suffering from Opioid use disorder to share their experiences, build social support networks, and learn about available resources. Many recovery programs offer peer-led support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, allowing members to work together to overcome addiction.

Supplements

Nutrition supplements can be an important part of recovery from Opioid dependence or abuse. Proper nutrition helps replenish lost nutrients from drug use and helps the body heal. Supplements such as vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics can help nourish the brain and aid in recovery from Opioid use disorder.

Taking Care of Mental health

Mental health professionals also play a key role in Opioid therapy plans. Therapists providing individual or group therapy can help individuals become aware of the underlying causes of their disorder, process their feelings about addiction, and gain coping skills for managing emotions. Psychiatrists specializing in addiction can provide medication management for those with co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

Co-Curing Problems 

Opioid abuse and addiction are often associated with co-occurring mental health disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that individuals with a substance use disorder are likely to suffer from at least one other mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. These happen due to changes in brain chemistry that occur when an individual is addicted to opioids.

Malnutrition is another common problem with Opioid patients. These are often a result of decreased appetite caused by the drug or poor eating habits associated with addiction. It can lead to vitamin deficiencies that can compound physical health issues such as weakened immune systems and fatigue.

Conclusion

Long-term Opioid use results in organ damage, including liver and kidney failure. It is important for individuals struggling with an Opioid use disorder to get adequate nutrition and seek professional help to address any underlying mental health or physical conditions they may have.

When assessing for Opioid therapy, it’s important to consider any underlying conditions and address them in addition to the drug abuse itself. It can include discussing strategies to manage emotions and stressors with a mental health professional. It may also involve taking nutrition supplements to help offset vitamin deficiencies caused by Opioid use.

In conclusion, opioid therapy is essential for treating individuals with substance use disorders. It involves a combination of medications, behavioral treatments, support groups, nutrition supplements, and mental health professionals to address the underlying causes of Opioid abuse and addiction.

The comprehensive approach helps individuals identify triggers for their substance use, develop healthier coping skills to manage stressors and become aware of any co-occurring mental health or physical conditions they may have. With the help of this integrated approach to treatment, people struggling with Opioid disorder can get on the path toward long-term recovery.

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