Dangers of Opioid Use

Dangers of Opioid Use

The Austrian psychologist Viktor E. Frankl said, “There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.” People struggling with active addiction often feel as if they have lost all meaning in their lives. Of course, this is not true; it is just the nature of the disease of addiction to keep the individual hopeless and isolated. This lack of meaning can be especially pervasive for people struggling with opioid use because it is such a powerful addiction. However, the good news is there is always hope for recovery and getting that vital meaning back in one’s life.

The Prevalence of Substance Use Disorder in the U.S.

Substance use disorder (SUD) is still highly prevalent in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “46.3 million people aged 12 or older (or 16.5 percent of the population) met the applicable DSM-5 criteria for having a substance use disorder in the past year, including 29.5 million people who were classified as having an alcohol use disorder and 24 million people who were classified as having a drug use disorder.” Also, perhaps more tragic, “In 2021, 94% of people aged 12 or older with a substance use disorder did not receive any treatment.”

Many of these people specifically struggle with opioid use and opioid addiction. This is because opioid use is one of the most prevalent types of addiction occurring today (behind alcohol use disorder).

The Prevalence of Opioid Use Disorder in the U.S.

Opioid use and opioid addiction have hit crisis levels in the U.S. According to the peer-reviewed thesis, Opioid Use Disorder, by Doctors Dydyk, Jain, and Gupta, “OUD [opioid use disorder] affects over 16 million people worldwide and over 2.1 million in the United States… More than 120,000 deaths worldwide every year are attributed to opioids.[2] Examples of opioids include heroin (diacetylmorphine), morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone.”

Many of the people who become addicted to opioids do so unintentionally when getting prescribed synthetic opioids for reasonable medical issues, and it slowly “snowballs” out of hand. Then, there are many people who use opioids without understanding how addictive and dangerous they can be.

The Dangers of Opioid Use

Opioid use can be extremely dangerous as it can lead to physical, mental, and emotional dependence as well as potential overdose and overdose death. Of course, those are not the only dangers of opioid use. The following are just a few of the more prominent dangers of opioid use and opioid addiction:

  • Can lead to financial insecurity and familial detriment
  • May cause legal issues
  • Many gastrointestinal problems, including extreme constipation
  • Dangerous disruption of sleep patterns, including not sleeping enough and sleeping too much
  • Increases the chances of risky behavior
  • Can disrupt brain development (specifically in people under 30)
  • Leads to anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring issues of mental health
  • Increases the chances for co-occurring addictions (including other substance and behavioral addictions)
  • Can lead to serious withdrawals
  • May lead to self-harm and suicidal ideations

As one can see, these are not insignificant dangers. Also, if any, many, or all of these signs are present, it is highly recommended that professional help be sought as soon as possible. Doing so could mean the difference between short-term side effects and long-term consequences.

A Focus on Fentanyl

One particularly frightening aspect of opioid use and opioid use disorder is the introduction of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a particularly deadly synthetic opioid that is responsible for many of the opioid overdoses and overdose deaths happening today.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths. Even in small doses, it can be deadly. Over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.” Also, many people are often unaware they are even ingesting fentanyl because it is now being laced into many different substances.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), “Two milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage… 42% of pills tested for fentanyl contained at least 2 mg of fentanyl, considered a potentially lethal dose… One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.” It is because of these types of dangers of opioid use that getting help as soon as possible is critical.

How to Get Help for Opioid Use Disorder

Many people who struggle with opioid use disorder feel stuck in a situation that they don’t know how to escape from. Again, this is the disease of addiction – it keeps individuals from reaching out and asking for help.

On the other side, many people don’t know how to approach an individual who is struggling with opioid use disorder because they don’t know what to say, and they may even be worried that they may offend them. This hopelessness from the individual and this hesitancy from loved ones must be overcome if anyone is to heal and recover.

The key to getting help for opioid use disorder is honesty. If an individual is struggling, they must know that it is okay to reach out for help. Also, family members and loved ones must understand that being uncomfortable is worth the cost of saving a life.

Sometimes, loved ones have to make changes in order to get an individual the help they need. For example, many people are unaware that they are enabling a loved one’s addiction by allowing them to use and stay at home or by giving them money to keep them from doing something illegal to get their opioids. This is only prolonging the problem.

If a loved one is unwilling to get help for their opioid addiction, boundaries must be set. Again, these may be hard, but they are for the health and wellness of everyone involved. These may be boundaries such as not allowing an individual to come into the home if they have been using, no longer giving them any financial help, and not letting them near the family if they are under the influence. Now, these may feel difficult, but they can be life-saving. They can also help an individual decide that they need detox and treatment.

Detoxing From Opioids

For many individuals struggling with opioid use disorder, a medical detox is required. This is because opioid withdrawals can be extremely dangerous. According to the peer-reviewed thesis, Opioid Withdrawal, by Doctors Shah and Huecker, “Opioid withdrawal syndrome is a life-threatening condition resulting from opioid dependence.” Also, “Opioid dependence impacts the drug user and imposes a significant economic burden on society by increasing healthcare costs, unemployment rates, absenteeism, and premature mortality… When opioid withdrawal signs are present, pharmacological management of opioid withdrawal is needed.”

It is because of these opioid withdrawal dangers that detoxing in the care of professionals is crucial. Yes, not doing so may potentially be deadly, but it will also be unnecessarily uncomfortable. Not detoxing properly can also lead to a relapse.

Relapses are more common than many people may realize. According to the peer-reviewed thesis, Relapse Prevention, by Doctors Guenzel and McChargue, “One primary concern in addiction treatment is the high rate of relapses within a short period after even the most intensive treatment. Many studies have shown relapse rates of approximately 50% within the first 12 weeks after completion of intensive inpatient programs that often last 4 to 12 weeks or more and can cost tens of thousands of dollars.”

These relapse rates go down exponentially with the proper addiction care. A safe and secure detox is just the start of that care as it can help people to the next step, which is often day treatment.

What Does Day Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Look Like?

Day treatment is a form of treatment that allows an individual to closely focus on their recovery while also staying connected to their everyday lives. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who have financial and familial responsibilities that they can not completely step away from.

Day treatment for opioid use disorder should always look individualized and comprehensive. This means that each recovery plan should be tailored to the specific needs of the client, and each recovery plan should use as many treatment means, methods, and modalities as necessary.

Effective day treatment for opioid use disorder is also going to look very active. Many people are under the misconception that day treatment is less intensive than residential addiction care. This is simply not the case. Effective day treatment often consists of five days a week of focused and rigorous work. For some people, their day treatment will also include medication management.

Medication Management for Opioid Use Disorder

Many treatment centers have yet to offer medication management, even though it has been shown to be effective in many cases. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Effective medications exist to treat opioid use disorder: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These medications could help many people recover from opioid use disorder, but they remain highly underutilized. Fewer than half of private-sector treatment programs offer medications for opioid use disorders, and of patients in those programs who might benefit, only a third actually receive it.”

Medication management is also a great way for individuals to slowly work their way down to abstinence. This process can be greatly aided by the use of psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma therapy.

Psychotherapy for Opioid Use Disorder

Many people are under the misconception that the sole problem of the addiction is the substance involved. This is simply not the case – as is said in many recovery circles, “The substance is but a ‘symptom’ of the disease.”

Psychotherapy can get to the underlying issues that cause the negative behaviors of addiction. Often, these underlying issues include issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma.

Trauma is much more common than many people may be aware of. According to the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, “Exposure to traumatic events is not rare, as has been consistently found in epidemiological studies. The World Mental Health Surveys of adults were carried out among nearly 70,000 participants from 24 countries ranging in economic status from low to high. These data showed that at some time in their life, 70.4% of the respondents had experienced at least one type of a traumatic event.”

For individuals with opioid use disorder, these underlying issues must be addressed if one is to heal at the molecular level. Another modality that can be particularly helpful for this is group therapy.

Group Therapy for Opioid Use Disorder

Connecting with others in recovery is vital for long-term success. One way to make these connections is via group therapy. Group therapy allows for a safe space where individuals can engage in “shared experiences” and help each other work through the process of recovery. This type of therapy also helps people in recovery get comfortable meeting and working with new people.

Connecting with others in recovery is often referred to as the “primary purpose” in many recovery communities – “Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help another person in recovery.” This is also a great way to maintain sobriety on both ends.

Addiction recovery can be full of many paradoxes. A very common one is, “You have to give it away to keep it.” This is what connecting to other people in recovery is all about. The primary text of 12-Step recovery (often referred to as the Big Book) puts it this way, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking [and using] as intensive work with other [people in recovery]. It works when other activities fail… You can help when no one else can.” This work also helps with long-term recovery after day treatment has concluded.

A Focus on Long-Term Recovery

Here at NorthStar Recovery Center, we believe in long-term recovery over short-term “fixes.” It is why there is always a focus on what comes next after treatment. This includes connecting with a recovery community and getting involved.

It is important to stay active in one’s recovery. This might include doing service work at a recovery meeting, volunteering to help out at a rehabilitation center (such as coming to speak about one’s “experience, strength, and hope”), and continuing to go to individual therapy sessions.

Long-term recovery also often involves helping the entire family recover. It is important to remember that not only is addiction a disease, but it is a “family disease” as well. The entire family can be affected by one person’s addiction, and thus, the entire family has the right to recover.

Another way to maintain long-term recovery is by utilizing the alumni support services that are often offered by treatment centers. These services can help individuals stay active in their recovery and keep them connected with healthy, sober events and sober outings that they can take part in. After all, opioid addiction recovery is about a lot more than simply putting down the substance. It is about having fun and living life to the fullest as well.

Building a New Life in Recovery With NorthStar Recovery Center

Viktor E. Frankl also famously said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” No place is this more true than in the realm of recovery.

Here at NorthStar Recovery Center, we know that recovery must begin with the individual. But we also know that the best road to success is one aided by others. That is where we come in. Recovery is possible; we can help make it happen.

There is little doubt that there remains an opioid crisis in the United States. This is why it is important to continue discussing the dangers of opioid use and how quickly dependency can occur. Opioid use disorder can take everything and everyone away, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There is treatment out there. The key is reaching out for help. If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with issues of addiction or co-occurring disorders, we can help get you on the positive path toward recovery right away. For more information about the dangers of opioid use and how there is hope, please reach out to NorthStar Recovery Center today at (888) 311-0911.

Day Treatment at NorthStar Recovery Center in Southborough, MA

Day Treatment at NorthStar Recovery Center in Southborough, MA

The iconic author and philosopher Eckhart Tolle said, “The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.” People in active addiction often find themselves in two places – one is regretting the past, and two is fearing the future. They are rarely in the present moment, and if they are, they are quick to blot it out with alcohol and drugs. So, when that present moment pops when an individual is ready to get help, they must get the right help. Effective day treatment offers that help.

The Prevalence of Addiction and Mental Illness in the U.S.

Addiction and mental illness are certainly in the public conversation today. However, many people may not realize just how prevalent they really are. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders… Of the 20.3 million adults with substance use disorders, 37.9% also had mental illnesses,” and “Among the 42.1 million adults with mental illness, 18.2% also had substance use disorders.”

Unfortunately, many of these individuals don’t end up getting the proper addiction and/or mental health care that they ultimately need. According to NIDA, “[D]ata from 2020 shows that only 13 percent of people with drug use disorders receive any treatment.” Also, “Only 11 percent of people with opioid use disorder receive one of the three safe and effective medications that could help them quit and stay in recovery.” Also, many people who seek recovery wind up in the wrong treatment program or with an ineffective recovery plan.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Recovery Program for You

There are many different types of treatment. The most common are residential care and day treatment. Residential addiction and mental health care are for those individuals who require more round-the-clock attention and tend to be at the more severe stages of mental illness or addiction. This type of treatment is also very helpful for individuals who struggle with relapse.

Many people don’t realize just how prevalent relapse is. According to the peer-reviewed journal Current Psychiatry Reports, “It has long been known that addictive disorders are chronic and relapsing in nature. Recent estimates from clinical treatment studies suggest that more than two-thirds of individuals relapse within weeks to months of initiating treatment.” Also, “For 1-year outcomes across alcohol, nicotine, weight, and illicit drug abuse, studies show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within 1 year of treatment.” Day treatment can also be helpful for people who struggle with relapse when they try to recover on their own.

Better Understanding Day Treatment

Day treatment is a form of recovery that allows the individual an opportunity to work on their recovery while also maintaining a connection to their day-to-day lives. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who have responsibilities that they must attend to during the recovery process. This may include family, school, and/or work obligations.

Many people often look at day treatment as a less intensive form of treatment than residential care. With effective day treatment, this is not the case. Day treatment fully engages the individual and fully immerses them in the process while they are at the treatment center. The primary difference is they still live and function off the property. This is just one of the benefits of day treatment.

The Benefits of Day Treatment

Day treatment offers a myriad of benefits. Yes, flexibility may be the most prominent one, but there are many others. The following are just a few more of the benefits of day treatment:

  • It helps connect individuals to other people in recovery (helps create a “sober network”)
  • Offers the support needed to focus on recovery
  • Connects individuals with a recovery community while they are still in treatment
  • Reduces the chance of relapse
  • Keeps individuals accountable for their recovery
  • Helps teach crucial life skills needed to maintain long-term recovery
  • Begins the therapy process
  • Provides essential structure needed for recovery
  • Keeps individuals connected to any necessary medical help
  • Connects individuals with alumni resources once they are done with day treatment
  • Often offers an opportunity to “step down” to a sober living facility

As one can see, these benefits can be crucial for attaining and maintaining long-term recovery. These benefits can also be experienced by most people who choose day treatment.

Who Is Best Suited for Day Treatment?

Individuals best suited for day treatment are those who are struggling with issues of addiction and mental illness but are still functional enough for day-to-day life. Day treatment is also best suited for people who are willing to do the work because it involves intensive work.

A few people that day treatment may not be suited for are those who are coming right out of detox and still need 24/7 attention to avoid harming themselves or others (including those who have a history of relapsing right after detox). It may also not be for individuals who currently live in toxic “triggering” situations that may keep them from fully focusing on their recovery.

It should also be noted that insurance and financial factors can play a part in getting into day treatment. However, one should never put finance over recovery, and there are often many ways in which a person can get the help they need, such as working out a payment plan with a recovery center. The key is to reach out and ask – most recovery centers have an admissions center that will be happy to help get an individual into the right place and type of treatment for them.

What Does Effective Day Treatment Look Like?

Effective day treatment is going to look specific in two ways. It is going to look individualized, and it is going to look comprehensive.

This means that each recovery plan will have a focus on each client’s specific needs. This includes a proper intake that focuses on their backstory, their current needs, and their goals for the future. It will also take into account any co-occurring disorders that an individual may have, as well as any family dynamics they may be dealing with.

Comprehensive care means that a recovery plan utilizes many means, methods, and modalities to help individuals recover. These types of treatment should be pulled from all different areas of recovery such as the psychotherapeutic, the experiential, and the holistic.

Effective day treatment will also look very active. It should involve an entire week of work (a minimum of five days) with full days of treatment (a minimum of six hours a day). Day treatment should also expect the individual to do work while they are not at the recovery center. This often includes connecting to a recovery community and attending recovery meetings (such as 12-Step meetings).

Therapy and Day Treatment

One of the most important components of day treatment is therapy. The primary type of therapy is often psychotherapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

These types of therapy can get to the underlying issues of one’s addictive behaviors. As is often the case, “the substance is but a ‘symptom’ of deeper issues.” Many times, these issues include trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is much more common than many people may think. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the National Center for PTSD, “About 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.” Also, “About 5 out of every 100 adults (or 5%) in the U.S. has PTSD in any given year. In 2020, about 13 million Americans had PTSD.” Effective psychotherapy in day treatment will address these underlying issues of PTSD.

Another type of therapy that is often used in day treatment is experiential therapy. These are therapies that focus on experiences (either active experiences or creative ones) to help individuals work through their issues. Perhaps the most common type of experiential therapy is art therapy. Art therapy helps individuals and their therapists analyze artistic choices and end products to help work through and address the issues an individual is dealing with.

Working With Others in Day Treatment

One of the most important aspects of recovery is connecting and working with others who have “shared experience.” This is discussed in the primary text of 12-Step recovery (often referred to as the Big Book). The book states, “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking [and using] as intensive work with other [people in recovery]. It works when other activities fail… You can help when no one else can.”

Working with others in recovery can also come out of connections made in group therapy, which is often another critical component of day treatment. Connecting with others while in treatment also makes it much easier to connect to others outside of treatment, which can be essential.

Connecting With a Recovery Community While in Day Treatment

It is often said in recovery that one needs to get “in the middle of the herd.” This means that getting involved in a recovery community can be very helpful in keeping one sober and avoiding a potential relapse.

Many people think of getting involved in a recovery community as simply going to meetings. However, while this is important, it is the minimum that one can do. It is often much more effective to join a “home group” of a recovery community and volunteer one’s time. This might involve greeting people at the door, making coffee, or even leading the meeting. This service can be vital in keeping one sober in the long term.

Creating a Healthy Lifestyle in Day Treatment

Day treatment is also a great way to create a healthy “design for living.” This means learning essential life skills like financial responsibility and sleep hygiene (creating healthy sleep cycles). It also often means bringing healthy holistic practices into one’s life, like yoga and meditation.

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years to help people quiet their minds and find inner peace. Originally, yoga was practiced solely for religious or spiritual purposes, but it has since moved into the realm of recovery.

Yoga offers a myriad of benefits that can help individuals with addiction and mental health recovery. According to the International Journal of Yoga (IJOY), “Therapeutic yoga is defined as the application of yoga postures and practice to the treatment of health conditions. Yoga therapy involves instruction in yogic practices and teachings to prevent reduce or alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. Yogic practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, promote recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.” Meditation also offers similar benefits.

Meditation is a great practice to learn in day treatment because not only does it have benefits, but it can go virtually anywhere the individual goes. According to the International Quarterly Journal of Ayurveda (AYU), “During the process of meditation, accumulated stresses are removed, energy is increased, and health is positively affected overall. Research has confirmed a myriad of health benefits associated with the practice of meditation. These include stress reduction, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, reduction in pain (both physical and psychological), improved memory, and increased efficiency.” It can also help with goal-setting.

Setting Goals in Day Treatment

Day treatment also offers a great opportunity to set goals for the future. Yes, these include goals regarding staying sober, but they also include familial, financial, and social goals.

Another big part of setting goals in recovery is connecting with loved ones and healing together. Many people understand that addiction is a disease, but they may not be aware that it is a “family disease” as well. This means the entire family is affected by one person’s addiction. It also means that the entire family may require help to heal.

Day treatment can offer an opportunity for the family to both heal together and apart. This may include individual therapy and counseling as well as family therapy, both with and without the individual who is in day treatment. This can also be a big help when it comes to transitioning back into everyday life.

Transitioning Back Into Everyday Life After Day Treatment

Day treatment is not just about the present moment, but it is also about the long term. This is one of the paradoxes of recovery – one must “live one day at a time” in order to attain long-term recovery.

Day treatment can help this transition back into day-to-day life because an individual always maintains some connection to their outside lives while also focusing on their recovery in the treatment center. Many recovery centers also help this transition happen by offering comprehensive alumni support services. These alumni services help individuals stay connected to other people in recovery, as well as offer support and relapse prevention plans.

The Importance of Enjoying Recovery and Long-Term Success at NorthStar Recovery

Eckhart Tolle also famously said, “Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.” When the opportunity presents itself, it is also time to “say yes” to recovery. For many, it is time to “say yes” to day treatment.”

Here at NorthStar Recovery Center, we know that seeking help for addiction can be daunting. However, we also know that seeking help for addiction is one of the best choices an individual will ever make.

Recovery is possible, and there is hope. The key is to reach out, take the first step, and ask for help. Once that happens, we will always be here at NorthStar Recovery Center to help take the next steps toward a life beyond what was once unimaginable.

For many people, day treatment is the best option for recovery. This is due to the convenience of these programs and how they allow individuals to seek treatment while continuing to handle their daily responsibilities. Day treatment is also a great way to stay focused on one’s recovery without having to commit to residential care. If you feel like you or a loved one are struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders, we can help get you on the right road to long-term recovery right away. For more information about the benefits that day treatment provides, please reach out to NorthStar Recovery Center today at (888) 311-0911.