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Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Struggling with misuse of prescription opioid medications,

heroin or fentanyl? You’re not alone. We can help.

Millions of Americans fight every day with addiction to opioid medications.

Nearly 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2020 involved an opioid. Addiction, like opioid use disorder, is a chronic disease of the brain where the brain’s chemical responses are altered.

It is not a moral weakness, character flaw, or sign someone is bad person. As a chronic disease, there is medical treatment available to manage and treat opioid use disorder available here at Lake Region Healthcare.

What is an opioid?

Opioids are large class of pain-relieving drugs that work on specific receptors in the body.

These include prescription medications, like morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, along with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. These medications can be prescribed appropriately by healthcare workers to treat pain. They can also be misused and become addictive. Heroin is also an opioid.

What is opioid use disorder (OUD)?

Opioid use disorder is defined as the chronic use of opioids that causes distress or impairment. This can include cravings, or an overpowering desire or need to use opioids, increased tolerance, or needing greater amounts of opioids to achieve the same effect, and withdrawal, or experiencing unpleasant symptoms when going without opioids. With opioid use disorder, overdose of opioids is a real concern, which can cause significant injury or even death.

Many people who struggle with opioid use disorder also deal with other mental health conditions. Those experiencing depression and anxiety are more likely to use opioids and are more likely to develop opioid use disorder.

How is OUD treated?

Opioid use disorder can be successfully treated with medication therapy. This can be done in several ways.

We treat opioid use disorder with suboxone. Suboxone is the name of a combination of two medications, buprenorphine, and naloxone. Both medications work on the same receptors in the brain as opioids. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist of this receptor, meaning it binds and causes a similar, but much smaller, reaction within the brain than opioids do. It is long acting, meaning it is bound for long periods of time. Buprenorphine helps prevent opioid cravings, reduce symptoms of withdrawal, and prevent the “high” if opioids are used. Naloxone acts as an antagonist at the opioid receptor, meaning it blocks the effects of other opioids. It is added to buprenorphine to prevent the misuse or sale of the combination product.

Individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorder work closely with our case management team and providers to help achieve treatment success. A thorough history that includes physical and mental health conditions, previous treatments, and the length, amount, and type of opioid use to best create an individualized treatment plan.

Once a treatment plan is developed and the correct starting dose of suboxone is determined, patients can be sent home with a short-term prescription of suboxone to be used at home.

What happens next?

Frequent follow up is required to ensure the dose of suboxone is appropriate and to renew or update the prescription as needed. The interval between appointments can be as short as a few days early in treatment and will often be extended longer as treatment continues. As treatment goes on, the body will typically require less opioids. The dose of suboxone is tapered down slowly. Some patients are able to completely stop suboxone completely after an appropriate treatment course, while others may require a small maintenance dose.

It is important to note that starting suboxone too soon after last opioid use may cause withdrawal symptoms. The provider, case manager, and patient work closely together to ensure enough time has passed since last use to safely initiate suboxone. Symptoms of withdrawal during this time can be treated as needed.

The LRH suboxone team can also connect individuals receiving treatment with non-medication resources. These can include mental health treatment, counseling, social work services, health insurance, and more. Substance use disorders are affected by and can affect many areas of life, and addressing these concerns can be integral in achieving success in treating opioid use disorder.

What about methadone?

Another medical treatment for opioid use disorder is methadone. Methadone is a long-acting full agonist of the opioid receptors, meaning it causes are more complete response when used. Like buprenorphine, it prevents cravings, symptoms, or withdrawal, and blocks the effects of other opioids. Though methadone is a safe and effective treatment for many individuals experiencing opioid use disorder, it is not currently prescribed at LRH.

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