Do you or someone you love suffer from addiction? You are not alone. Nearly 21 million Americans have one or more addictions. Sadly, only 10 percent get the treatment they need to break free from their addiction.
For many, treatment options are few. But, the main reason so few people seek help is because of the stigma and shame associated with having an addiction. Foundations, such as Changing the Face of Addiction, is fighting to remove the stigma.
Through community education and effective addiction prevention programming we can stop the stigma. Together, we can recover from the destruction of addiction.
Why Some People Become Addicted When Others Don’t
First of all, let’s dispel a common misconception: Addiction is not a lack of moral character. There is a strong biological component of addiction as well as environmental factors. People who have experienced childhood trauma are much more likely to develop addictions.
Starting substance abuse as an adolescent plays a significant role in the development of addictions. Research shows that 90% of addicts began using as teenagers. Because the adolescent brain is still developing, alcohol and drugs change how their brain develops.
The part of the brain that is developing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for executive functioning skills. This includes planning, impulse control, making judgment-based decisions, and prioritizing information and tasks.
When substance abuse begins during this developmental phase, the prefrontal cortex physically changes. The user’s brain adapts to the flood of “feel good” chemicals by reducing the body’s natural production of those chemicals.
Then when the body comes down from the high, the brain has a shortage of the “feel good” chemicals. This leaves the person feeling physically and emotionally unwell. To re-establish chemical balance, the brain causes a craving for the substance that will make it feel better or happier.
This cycle is part of the natural reward system in our brains. Once drugs or alcohol hijacks this cycle, the system becomes dependent upon the outside substances to function. This is how substance abuse becomes a chronic brain disease called addiction.
The Opioid Epidemic
Pharmaceutical companies assured the healthcare community that opioid pain killers were not addictive. This spurred a widespread increase in the use and prescription of opioid pain killers.
By the time it became evident that this type of pain reliever is actually very addictive, its usage had become epidemic. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. By 2018, more than 130 people dying every day from opioid overdose and 10.3 million misusing prescription opioids.
The widespread opioid addiction affected people across all socio-economic, ethnic, and gender populations. This public health emergency came with a price tag of over 78.6 billion dollars per year.
HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative Research Plan is a national organization that was formed in response to the opioid health crisis. Their mission is to find evidence-based, long-term solutions for the opioid crisis.
One of HEAL’s goals is to make recovery available to anyone who needs help. Another goal is to increase prevention outreach programming and community education. The role of community education is the key to ending the opioid crisis and preventing future addiction.
An important aspect of community education is to dispel some common misconceptions:
- Addiction is not a character or moral defect, it is a disease of the brain
- Addiction recovery requires a multi-systematic approach
- Addiction withdrawal can be life-threatening, so get professional help
If we want to see less substance abuse within our communities, we have to change the way we view addiction.
Research shows that addictive behaviors are more likely to develop in people who have other mental health concerns. This includes anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. It is also more common in people who have experienced trauma, especially childhood trauma.
So, not only is addiction a disease of the brain, but it is also considered a mental and psychosocial disorder. As such a complex disease, addiction treatment must be comprehensive. An effective recovery program takes into account physical, emotional, and social health.
Addressing the root of addiction decreases rates of relapse and increases long-term success. It is also important to know that withdrawing from addictive substances can be life-threatening. It takes time for the brain to relearn how to manufacture the “feel good” chemicals without the use of drugs or alcohol.
It is critical to have professional help with appropriate medications to ensure a safe withdrawal process. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of online drug rehabilitation programs has increased. This makes treatment options more accessible than ever.
This is very encouraging for several reasons. One is that patients can now access comprehensive addiction treatment from the privacy of their own homes. Another great thing about online recovery programming is that it is less costly than residential programs.
The Dangers of Withdrawal
Sudden withdrawal from opioid substances can be life-threatening. it is vital to seek professional help in managing the recovery process. Withdrawal symptoms can include high blood pressure, rapid breathing, vomiting, severe body aches, hallucinations, and seizures.
The addicted brain depends on the opioids to activate the body’s ability to block pain and cause feelings of euphoria. Suddenly stopping opioids causes our brain to go into crisis mode. As mentioned above, this can result in serious withdrawal symptoms.
Until the brain heals and begins to create “feel good” chemicals without opioids, it needs less addictive replacement to keep the reward system functioning at a healthy level.
Using a replacement compound is a safe and effective part of a medication-assisted treatment plan. This replacement compound contains buprenorphine and naloxone and is known as Suboxone.
Buprenorphine is in the opiate family, so it functions the same as more addictive opioids do by activating our body’s opioid receptors. The difference is that buprenorphine is a much weaker opiate, so it does not produce intense feelings of euphoria.
The benefit of the naloxone is that it blocks some of the opioid receptors. This further reduces the addictive properties of Suboxone. The two compounds work together to reduce withdrawal symptoms and minimize cravings.
Recovery programs that include Suboxone online are ideal for people seeking addiction treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This keeps patients and healthcare workers stay safe at home. Get your affordable Suboxone treatment delivered to you.
Myths of Suboxone
Some people believe that if they take Suboxone, they are not really in recovery. It is important to look at this from a medical perspective. If addiction were to cause type 2 diabetes, and the patient needed insulin injections to be healthy. Would that patient still be in recovery? Of course!
When the body is not able to create something it needs to function, then it only makes sense to give the body what it needs. In the case of addiction, the brain needs support to be healthy.
Will you need to use Suboxone long term? Some people do need long-term support from Suboxone, just as some people need long-term insulin injections. Yet, others can be weaned off of Suboxone as their brain heals.
Your recovery physician will create a recovery plan that meets your individual needs. Discuss your long-term recovery goals with your doctor. Together, you can create a plan that minimizes health risks as you recover from addiction.
Always check with your physician before making any changes to your Suboxone treatment. It is not healthy for your brain to suddenly stop taking this medication. Just like a diabetic should not suddenly stop taking insulin.
The most important role of community education is teaching people why opioids are so addictive. Research shows that the brain begins dependency on opioids within 24 hours after use. Slipping into addiction at a biological level happens very quickly.
Another significant role of community education is teaching alternative methods of pain management. A 2016 study estimated that more than 20% of adults are living with chronic pain. Safe methods of pain management will prevent the need for opioids.
Community outreach should also focus on providing help for people in impoverished areas. Costs of rehabilitation programs and necessary medication are very prohibitive. It does not serve impoverished or uninsured patients. Having treatment options online is one way to reach all people in need.
Stop the Stigma, Stop the Shame
Every community member is responsible for addiction prevention and treatment options. This is not simply a disease of the addicted or afflicted, it impacts everyone. Stand up for those who may not be able to stand up for themselves.
Use community education to show everyone that there is a better way to heal from addiction. Don’t worry if you can’t see your doctor in person because of COVID. Your recovery program and Suboxone treatment can be delivered to you.
Everyone deserves an addiction-free life. Contact us to start living yours today.