Opioid Epidemic & Treatment Approaches

By Ryan Bain Tree House Staff

The opioid epidemic is an intensely complex sociocultural issue often largely misunderstood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that from 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose and on average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

We are in trouble and need help

As human beings, we have been around for roughly 200,000 years. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was established in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA); stark difference. Updates are continually made, however, even neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate Thomas Südhof has pointedly expressed, “We are still in need of an understanding of the fundaments. Science works as a process that extends over decades.” For example, up until 1973, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, categorized homosexuality as an illness. To this day, in some cultures, depression is marked simply as laziness. And up until very recently, in the midst of a stigmatized epidemic, many still view addiction as purely a moral deficiency. Truth be told, we have only just begun to understand ourselves, let alone addiction, as evidenced by the DSM being around for a mere 0.0003% of human existence. The good news is, we are making significant progress in a number of areas in a short period of time (e.g. homosexuality is not an illness, depression is not a lack of work ethic and addiction is a disorder). On top of that, what we do know, we know rather well. For example, in treating any mental health disorder, there are likely multi-causal factors stemming from neurobiological, psychological and social issues. Addiction is no different and all factors must be considered when implementing various treatment approaches.

There are answers

Each potential contributing factor needs to be addressed with a fitting and equally powerful approach in pursuit of reaching an individual’s optimal mental and physical set points. Due to the uniqueness of every individual, multi-modal approaches to treatment are highly touted as treatment providers are then better prepared and more well-rounded in various evidence-based practices which are likely to meet an individual’s needs. Psychological and biomedical treatments are often interwoven in this pursuit. With that said, it’s important to recognize that because of the prevalence of side effects and the difficulty to determine which drug and how much of it an individual should take, drug therapy may not always be the right answer.

optimizing mind and body banner

Want to learn more about effective treatment for opioid addiction? Read about it here.

Strongly Considering What is Best

In consideration of Dr.Südhof’s point, a fundamental approach toward well-being like exercise may oftentimes be more suitable and effective, despite the typical solutions offered within our mental-health infrastructure. Often overlooked, yet even more so under-implemented, exercise is actually a profound natural remedy for underlying mental health disorders linked to addiction, especially when used in conjunction with psychological approaches, like motivational interviewing. Exercise alone can increase levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which is what antidepressants aim to do. John J. Ratey, M.D.,of Harvard Medical School, has emphatically stated, “We sometimes lose sight of the fact that the mind, brain, and body all influence one another. In addition to feeling good when you exercise, you feel good about yourself.” He also stated that, “The mechanisms by which exercise changes how we think and feel are so much more effective than donuts, medicines, and wine. When you say you feel less stressed out after you go for a swim, or even a fast walk, you are.” There are some fundamentals of being in which we have simply have gotten away from. Getting back to our roots is worth more than just noting as it will give a truer indication as to what approaches are best suited for individual suffering as opposed to replacing one synthetic substance for another.

The human mind, body and brain working in unison is the most intricate and powerful machine on the planet; and we must become more proficient in learning how to best take care of it. Sometimes, evidenced-based psychological approaches are necessary in order to do so. The Psychoanalytic method developed by Sigmund Freud which focuses on how pattern of interactions in childhood can influence current day relationships, has its place. As do newer humanistic approaches like Carl Rogers’s client-centered therapy and Fritz Perls’s gestalt therapy where the idea that people must learn to live in the present and take responsibility for their lives are focal points. Cognitive-behavioral approaches like Albert Ellis’s rational-emotive behavioral therapy and Aaron Beck’s cognitive therapy assist in altering an individual’s beliefs and ways of thinking which is absolutely necessary for people challenged by distorted thoughts and maladjusted behavioral patterns.

In treatment, it is essential to develop a therapeutic alliance with a patient while also being well-versed in various practices and approaches that best fit that individual’s needs. A person must be viewed humanistically and objectively, considering the individuals’ psychology, biology and social aspects of being. When treating an individual suffering from addiction, it is no different, and multi-modal approaches, like that of Tree House Recovery’s, are undoubtedly best suited in guiding an individual out of active addiction and into a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle allowing them to fully integrate back into the family environment and society.

Share This Post