Are you or someone you love having trouble with opioids? Treatment is possible, and we can help! Call 207-487-5154 to set up an appointment.
Many of us have heard about, or been touched by, the opioid crisis. Our goal is to help our community understand substance use disorder and how treatment using medications can make a difference in a person’s life.
It’s important to begin with an understanding of what addiction is. Addiction is the use of a substance despite it causing harm. Some examples of this harm include: you can’t keep a job or lost your driver’s license - but you keep using the substance despite harm to your life, and you can’t stop - or even cut down - and spend a lot of time trying to find another dose. This is addiction, also called substance use disorder.
Why can’t people just quit opioids?
Because using substances creates permanent changes in the brain that cause addiction. The simplest way to describe it is that the brain has receptors like locks, or the ignition in your car. When you put the key in, you can unlock the doors and start the car. In the brain, when the opioid or other substance attaches to the receptor, it is turned on. It may help the pain you took it for, but it can also release pleasure chemicals that can make some people feel high or euphoric.
Some people are more likely to become addicted, but anyone is at risk because addiction doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, or socioeconomic status. When someone is using a non-medical opioid like heroin, the released pleasure chemicals are extremely strong and make people want to use again to feel that good again; however, after a while it takes more and more of the drug to get the chemicals released. When there is no drug, those receptors stay turned on and will send out signals to the whole body and cause bone pain, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. This is called withdrawal and is incredibly miserable.
The person seeks out more opioids (narcotics) to avoid withdrawal and they are stuck in a cycle of misuse. One can’t just use willpower to stop; once people are addicted, brain changes are largely permanent and, like any chronic disease, requires doctor visits, medication, and lifestyle modifications.
How can medication help someone quit opioid addiction?
We have medications that will fit into that brain lock and reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. The most effective medication is Suboxone, which sticks to the brain receptor better than any narcotic. It’s important to note that using an FDA-approved treatment medicine like Suboxone does not trade one addiction for another. Suboxone does not produce a high feeling like opioids do and the withdrawal symptoms are avoided. This allows the person to be comfortable and focus on rebuilding their life.
We offer Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) with integrated primary care for patients with substance use disorder at our Northern Light Primary Care in Pittsfield. Call us today at 207-487-5154 to set up an appointment.
This MAT program is made possible by a grant through the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program to the Sebasticook Valley Opioid Response Network, a coalition of community partners working to address barriers to prevention, treatment, and recovery. Partners include: Hometown Health Center; Kennebec Behavioral Health; Pittsfield Police Department; RSU #19 (Newport, Hartland, St. Albans, Palmyra); TeamHealth; Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital; Northern Light Acadia Hospital; and Northern Light Health.