February 1, 2017 – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than six out of ten drug overdose deaths in 2014 involved an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) nearly quadrupled, prompting the CDC to define the problem as an epidemic. While the current opioid overdose epidemic has hit our nation, it has become a horrifying reality in Summit County.
In the last 10 years, IBH Addiction Recovery Center has seen a corresponding increase in the number of people seeking treatment for opioid addiction. In 2005, 26.1% listed opioids as their first, second, or third drug of choice and by 2015, the percentage increased by 174% to 71.5%.
Opioid dependence is a medical condition caused by changes in the chemistry of the brain that can make treatment and recovery difficult. Opioid addicts frequently take more than they intend, devote significant time obtaining the drug and recovering from its effects, and continue to use it despite serious negative outcomes, physically, psychologically, and socially. Over time, the brain’s nerve receptors are likely to adapt and begin to resist the drug, causing the need for higher doses which could lead to respiratory arrest and even death.
Recovery from opioid addiction is possible, however, research shows relapse is a constant danger. There is also high risk of accidental death if a person uses opiates after being abstinent for a period of time. If the person is not well established in a solid recovery program, then the risk for relapse is even higher.
To respond, IBH Addiction Recovery Center has embraced the latest evidence-based research supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). Opioid-dependent clients will now have a choice to participate in medication assisted treatment using FDA-approved naltrexone (brand name: Vivitrol).
Naltrexone is a pure opioid antagonist and found most useful for highly motivated patients who have undergone detoxification from opioids and need additional support to avoid relapse. It has shown to improve treatment retention by reducing cravings and therefore relapse. It is not addictive and can be discontinued without any side effects.
“Naltrexone will only be used as an adjunct to residential treatment at IBH,” says Nancy Winkler, Director of Health Services at IBH. “The goal is to engage our clients for a long enough period of time to allow them to complete residential treatment, work and embrace a 12-step recovery program, and build a strong foundation rooted in spirituality.”
The decision to use naltrexone is purely voluntary for each opioid-dependent client, and will only be used when clinically appropriate and approved by the addictionologist at IBH. Approval for use is based on individual medical and motivation assessments. “Our communities are losing too many to the opioid crisis,” says Deborah Foster-Koch, Executive Director of IBH. “This crisis demands up-to-date, evidence-based protocols that support the current treatment philosophy at IBH. This will allow the person to engage more successfully in all the components necessary for sobriety.”