Did you know that there were over 100,000 opioid use overdoses between 2020 and 2021? This is a more than 25% increase compared to the previous year. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were some of the major causes.
As opioid overdoses and addictions increase, where can you or a loved one turn for treatment? Opioid use disorder medication is an effective treatment for opioid addictions. It is usually administered in a rehabilitation facility under medical care.
It can help treat debilitating symptoms and put you on the path to long-term success. But how does this process work?
Luckily, we have put together a complete guide on what medication-assisted treatment is and how it can help, so keep reading for more information!
What Is Opioid Use Disorder?
Opioid use disorder is chronic opioid medication use that can lead to health issues, distress, or other impairments. It is a mental health illness classified by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
The main characteristic of opioid use disorder outlined by the APA includes using or obtaining opioids knowing the consequences. These consequences could be related to work, relationships, or finances.
It is broken up into two main categories: dependence and addiction. The latter is more detrimental and severe. Here are some examples of common opioids:
As opioid use increases, other key signs include withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them.
Common treatments for opioid use disorder include twelve-step programs and inpatient rehab. Other common treatments for addiction include:
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Behavioral therapy
- Medical devices
- Treating co-occurring illnesses (e.g., depression)
- Detox centers
Why are treatments critical to the success of overcoming opioid addictions? First, severe abuse and addiction can lead to several withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be life-threatening if you detox without medical support.
While it is not fully clear how and why withdrawal symptoms happen, researchers have found areas in the brain with higher opioid receptors. When opioid use is diminished or removed entirely, it can lead to several symptoms, such as:
- Goose flesh
- Nausea and vomiting
Long-term success relies on medication-assisted treatment, which can help reduce withdrawal effects, relapse, and ultimately, opioid overdose. The two common medications used are methadone and Suboxone.
Methadone is usually administered in an inpatient rehab facility. These medications are used when going through the detox process, and healthcare clinicians can monitor the patient’s vitals and other symptoms such as diarrhea.
Opioid Use Disorder Medication
Let’s look a little deeper at why methadone and Suboxone treat opioid addictions. Suboxone includes two separate medications: buprenorphine and naloxone.
It is a Schedule III controlled substance versus methadone, a Schedule II drug. This means there are some limits and regulations on how you use it.
Buprenorphine acts similarly to other opioids but is a partial agonist-antagonist. It won’t have the full effects someone might get from other opioids. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist.
It blocks the effects of opioids and helps with withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is an opioid that mimics heroin and OxyContin.
Yet, it produces different effects since it is a slow-acting opioid medication. It can help treat withdrawals without giving that ‘high’ that many patients seek with opioids. For comparison, the half-life of oxycodone is three to five hours.
The half-life of methadone can be as long as 60. Withdrawal symptoms can still occur with methadone. For this reason – it should be administered in a clinic or rehab facility.
These medical professionals can supervise withdrawals. They also titrate medications and ensure you are getting adequate dosing.
What Do the Studies Show?
Studies found that when patients used medication-assisted treatment, they had fewer risks of overdosing. Other opioid-related acute care concerns also decreased.
This study compared methadone and buprenorphine against other therapies. These included:
- Behavioral interventions
Yet, many people are not getting enough access to methadone or Suboxone. Studies found that patients with insurance mainly used outpatient services. An astounding 59% received these treatments, while 12.5% used medication-assisted treatment.
Many addiction specialists and health professionals state that medication-assisted treatment is the most effective tool when treating opioid addictions. Improving access and affordability can help patients overcome opioid use disorder.
Improved Access to Medication
Recently, there’s been changes in medication laws for opioid use disorder. The Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) made new changes last year. It involves buprenorphine use prescriptions.
Typically, physicians and other health practitioners must have a specific license. This license lets them dispense buprenorphine – a key ingredient in Suboxone.
As you can imagine, this limited access in rural communities. Now, federal certification requirements are not needed. Qualified practitioners can dispense buprenorphine to 30 patients at most.
What Is Naltrexone?
Have you heard of naltrexone? It often gets mixed into medication-assisted treatments for addiction. It is another type of prescription medication that treats:
- Alcohol dependence
- Opioid dependence
- Opioid detoxification
To start taking naltrexone, you must stop all opioids at least one week before treatment. Most intramuscular injections are extended release Naltrexone that patients receive monthly. The benefit of the extended release version is that you don’t have to worry about daily medication.
In naltrexone studies, over 35% of participants addicted to opioids did not use them for over 24 weeks.
Find Help for Opioid Use Disorder
Opioid use disorder medication can help treat debilitating addictions. These medications help block the effects of opioids and withdrawal symptoms. When used in a controlled environment, they show promising long-term effects.
Now, finding Suboxone clinics is easier with new rules and regulations. If you or a loved one needs treatment, don’t wait any longer.
Find a Suboxone or outpatient detox center near you today!