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Opioid Misuse

Understanding and Combating Opioid Use Disorder

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According to insightful research, approximately 2.35 million people struggle with an opioid use disorder. Moreover, out of 21.2 million Americans with a substance use disorder, only 3.7 million of them received any treatment.

Thus, more than 841,000 Americans have died from a drug overdose. Increased social and self-stigma around those with a substance use disorder make it challenging for Americans struggling with opioid addiction to speak up.

Combating opioid use disorder starts with discussing treatment plans with an addiction specialist. Here we’ve created a comprehensive guide to understanding opioid use disorder and how you can fight it with the help of a board-certified addiction doctor in Delaware, Georgetown, Lewes, and surrounding areas.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

An opioid is a class of drugs comprising prescription pain medicines and illegal drugs. While doctors may prescribe opioids to treat pain, patients may misuse them, resulting in dependency or addiction.

opioid use disorder

In medicine, addiction to this drug class is called opioid use disorder — a chronic, relapsing brain illness causing increased mortality and morbidity rates.

People with an opioid addiction may misuse prescribed medications, use diverted opioid medications, or illicitly purchase heroin. Like other substance use disorders, OUD also seriously impacts the brain and is often caused by a complex combination of psychological, genetic and environmental factors.

What Criteria is Used for Diagnosing of Opioid Use Disorder?

The diagnostic manual DSM-V highlights the following criteria for an opioid addiction diagnosis:

  • The patient takes opioids in large amounts or for a more extensive time than intended
  • The person persistently yet unsuccessfully tries to reduce or control opioid use
  • They have an intense craving for opioids and spend excessive time trying to obtain, use, or recover from the drug
  • Recurring opioid abuse is interfering with their work-life, school life, and personal life
  • The person stops or reduces occupational/recreational activities because of opioid use
  • They continually use opioids in physically hazardous situations
  • The patient continues to abuse opioids despite knowing the physical and psychological side effects
signs of opioid abuse

What are the Risk Factors of OUD?

Some risk factors of developing an addiction to opioids include:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Changes in the brain due to medical drug use
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Growing up in a high-stress environment
  • A family history of substance abuse disorders
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Negative social influences
  • Unstable employment
  • Racial or ethnic background
  • Pre-existing mental health issues, including anxiety or depression
  • Unstable or low-income housing

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder?

If you believe your close friend or family member is struggling with an opioid use disorder, look for the following symptoms:

Behavioral Signs of OUD

  • Taking large amounts of an opioid
  • Inability to cut down or reduce using the drug
  • Stopping or decreasing important activities
  • Social or legal problems
  • Using opioids in unsafe conditions
  • Seeking multiple prescriptions of OUD from different doctors
  • Falling behind at work or in school

Psychological Symptoms of OUD

  • Increased irritability
  • Interrupted sleeping habits
  • Feeling extremely anxious or depressed
  • Mood swings
  • Reduced motivation

Physical Signs of OUD

  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive time spend using or recovering from opioid
  • Increased tolerance
  • Medical complications
  • Slurred speech
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Withdrawal symptoms

If you or your loved one shows the signs and symptoms discussed above, please contact Dr. Alarcon, a deeply experienced doctor specializing in opioid use disorders.

How Can You Prevent Opioid Use Disorder?

There are various ways you can reduce exposure to opioids to reduce OUD successfully. It includes:

  • Checking out prescription drug monitoring programs
  • Following state prescription drug laws
  • Educating providers about opioid prescribing guidelines and facilitating conversations between doctors and patients about the benefits and risks of opioids
  • Introducing quality improvement programs to implement recommended and safer prescribing practices
  • Adding management strategies in health insurance plans, including quantity limits, drug utilization reviews, and prior authorization
  • Educating patients about the safe storage and disposal of prescription opioids
  • Creating awareness and sharing resources about the risks of OUD
  • Discussing the emotional and mental toll of overdose on patients and loved ones
OUD doctor in Delaware

Combating Opioid Use Disorder: What are the Different Treatment Plans?

At Atlantic Family Physicians, OUD patients come from Georgetown, Rehoboth Beach, Lewes and elsewhere throughout Sussex County for their personalized treatment plan.

Different suboxone and SUD doctors may implement other treatment plans. But all treatment plans share the same objectives:

  • Educating Patients about SUDs
  • Encouraging and Motivating Patients to Change
  • Preventing Relapses
  • Reducing Morbidity
  • Establishing and Maintaining a Strong Therapeutic Alliance
  • Assessing the Patient’s Safety and Clinical Status
  • Managing Intoxication and Withdrawal Symptoms
  • Curating a Treatment Plan to Meet the Patient’s Condition
treatment for OUD

Opioid use disorder is typically a relapsing brain disorder; thus, patients tend to have different types and durations of treatments.

Before the Treatment

Before starting the treatment, doctors must identify the following:

  • Treatment Goals
  • Conditions for Changing or Stopping Treatment
  • Therapeutic Contingencies for Failure to Meet Treatment Goals

During the Treatment

  • Use various tools to measure the risky behavior of substance abuse
  • During the process, the doctors or therapists ask open-ended questions or opt for intensive interviews such as ASSIST or NIDA-modified ASSIST test and drug abuse screening test.
  • Educate patients on the risky behavior of substance abuse to increase awareness.
  • Conversations, feedback, and advice vary during the different stages of behavior change.
  • Intervention should be tailored as per need as it is not a linear process.

Licensed medical practitioners carry out various treatment methods for efficacy and positive results, including:

  • Medical Interview
  • Physical Observations
  • Lab Analysis
  • Urine Toxicology Screen

Treatment can be carried out in various settings, or the practitioner may use a combination of all the different setups, depending patient’s needs:

  • In-patient care
  • Out-patient treatment
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Residential programs
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medical Management Strategies

Each OUD treatment plan must include medical management strategies, such as:

  • Adjusting the Frequency of Office Visits
  • Conducting Drug Tests
  • Discussing Patients’ Concerns about Side Effects and Their Support Network
  • Monitoring Patients’ Adherence to Medication
  • Providing Supportive Counseling
  • Referring to Psychiatric and Medical Care (if not directly provided)

What Medications Can You Take to Combat Opioid Use Disorder?

Multiple reasons lead to the use of opioids. In the United States, over 2 million people have an opioid use disorder (OUD). Over a quarter of a million people have an opioid use disorder related to heroin.

Opioid addiction can create long-term damage to one’s brain because it is a chronic medical condition. Fortunately, early treatment can help people avoid some long-term health problems associated with opioid addiction. 

Withdrawal requires more than willpower. It takes effort to break oneself free and escape the cycle of relapse and detox. It may be a long-term process, but counseling and medications can help people quit their addiction to opioids.

For people aiming to reduce or stop the use of opioids, multiple evidence-based approaches are available to do it safely. One of the safe and most effective approaches involves Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD).

Dr. Alarcon is certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine. As such, he is qualified to play a vital role in helping opioid addicts withdraw from the use of drugs and regain a normal life.  

MOUD Doctor in Delaware

Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) constitute an approach to help opioid addicts treat themselves by combining FDA-approved drugs with behavioral therapies and counseling.

What Medications Can You Use to Fight OUD?

Since opioid addicts have multiple reasons to use the drug, treating the patient is one of the most effective ways when the patient is ready to withdraw the use of opioids in the face of life circumstances and other competing needs.

For many patients, Dr. Alarcon’s evidence-based MOUD treatment has been effective in:

  • Reducing opioid use
  • Reducing the risk of transmitting infectious disease
  • Minimizing the chances of an overdose-related death
  • Supporting people who wish to reduce or stop using drugs
  • Increasing the chances that a person will not continue using drugs

Dr. Alarcon and other MOUD physicians often prescribe methadone and buprenorphine to people who wish to seek help in reducing or stopping the use of opioids.

Methadone, a synthetic opioid agonist, helps eliminate withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug cravings. It comes in a pill and liquid form. Patients take methadone daily, and it is only available at licensed treatment centers.

Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, binds to the same opioid receptors, but activates them less intensely. It reduces drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Initially, patients take it daily, but with time, the doctors reduce the dosage, depending on the condition of the patients. It is also available at licensed treatment centers.

OUD patients at Atlantic Family Physicians tell us they have come to truly value the comfort and care of our out-patient practice. Patients requiring medications for opioid use disorder are treated in a relaxed, non-threatening primary-care environment. Our practice is said to be more preferable compared to an in-patient drug or alcohol rehab center.

What’s more, we help alleviate traditional attitudes toward OUD patients’ addiction. Our staff seeks to build solid, supportive relationships with all our patients.

Dr. Fabricio Alarcon

The Bottom Line

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a drug addiction that can cause severe health issues and damage the brain. Even though reducing or stopping the use of opioid drugs is challenging, patients of Dr. Alarcon can recover quickly with therapies, outside counseling, and medications.

Contract his office today if you or a loved one is in need of MOUD treatment. His practice is currently accepting new patients.