A Spoonful of Wisdom Helps the Medicine Go Down

Community alert: Where is Mary Poppins when we need her? Mary, grab your umbrella, duty calls. Our children are in danger of impaired mental and physical development from improper and inappropriate use of drugs by themselves and their parents. The reported number of babies being born addicted is growing. The unreported number of opiate-addicted babies may be partly due to the fear that women who give birth to them are in danger of having their children seized by child protection agencies. I hear that ”vaping”—a new delivery system for flavored nicotine—is invading (invaping?) our youth culture. The first line of defense is prevention. There needs to be a massive educational effort dealing with the dangers in using many deadly drugs—beginning in middle school and including whole families. This is a multi-generational and multi-cultural threat to be ignored at our peril. Another community alert: Funds are becoming available for this important effort from the federal government though state and local agencies and entities. Don’t miss opportunities to use financial and social resources to maximize efforts in community communications.

As a nation, we are involved in an opiate epidemic. Fortunately, we have a new depth of focus on the science of addiction. From this has come medication-assisted recovery. These medications are primarily directed at reducing constant craving and the pain of withdrawal. There is now a medication that prevents death from overdose, but we need to get ahead of that ultimate intervention. The first medically-assisted response came from facing the heroin menace many years ago. Methadone was introduced as a treatment for heroin addiction. The Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) provides the following: Methadone works by changing how the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It lessens the painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal and blocks the euphoric effects of opiate drugs such as heroin, morphine, and codeine, as well as semi-synthetic opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Controversy over methadone maintenance has plagued the progress in providing service to recovering heroin addicts. The patients are best served by accessible and convenient clinics to obtain their daily dose. The process of obtaining permits is stalled or stopped because of unfounded fears so NIMBY (not in my backyard) prevails. In today’s environment, it is important to have recovery-ready communities with attitudes and actions to benefit the health and well being of all of its residents. Live informed instead of in fear.

Dip your spoon in the alphabet soup of knowledge about medication-assisted recovery.  In a previous blog I wrote: There are professionals with knowledge of the science of addiction who can prescribe appropriate drugs. Methadone, buprenorphine, naloxone, and naltrexone can all be effective in treating opioid addiction. Nalaxone HCI (NARCAN) can prevent overdose deaths. Medications are often an important part of treatment, more so when combined with behavioral therapies. All lead to the essential ability to think clearly and responsibly. Recovery from addiction leads to physical and mental well-being and alternatives to prolonged medicinal drug use.

Bill White, author and provider of education and motivation to those seeking recovery from addiction writes in a blog titled: The Role of Medicine in Addiction Treatment, “Imagine that the vast majority of organizations specializing in treatment of your condition have no affiliation with a hospital or other primary healthcare facility. Imagine the existence of FDA-approved medications specifically for treatment of your condition, but that you will not be informed about nor have access to these medications as part of your prescribed treatment. These are precisely the circumstances encountered today by the majority of people entering addiction treatment in the U.S.”

The opiate epidemic presents opportunity to educate about prevention, treatment, and recovery. Publications and dialogue must continue to inform and encourage understanding of the science of addiction and that a substance use disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental health issue with recovery possible.  The brain says we are doing fine on drugs—until the body betrays us. Our recovery-ready communities have an important role to play in providing reason and resources to support hope, health and healing. All are within our grasp—if we extend our reach.     Merlyn Karst

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