The key to reducing relapse from opioid addiction is collaborative care

The Role of Collaborative Care in Fighting Opioid Addiction

By Tori Utley is an entrepreneur working jointly in technology innovation and addiction recovery, holding her license as an alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) in Minnesota.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

The key to reducing relapse from opioid addiction is collaborative care

The opioid epidemic claimed the lives of more than 64,000 people in 2016 – that's more than 175 people each day of the year. As a nation, we’re losing our mothers, fathers, children, friends, neighbors and coworkers to the drug. Think of all the lives lost, not only in 2016, but in all the years prior.

We’ve fought this beast long enough that we’ve developed various schools of thought on how to approach the issue, but the problem has continued to rise. Pulling our knowledge together, picking out everything that works, and coming up with a stronger game plan may be the next big leap that could help us spare our loved ones.

By blending the benefits of medications and therapy, you can better prevent relapse and live a healthy life in recovery.

Introducing Collaborative Care

Collaborative care is the practice of blending traditional treatment for addiction (psychotherapy) with medication-assisted treatment. While many people may have found the use of medications to help treat opioid addiction controversial, studies have shown that medications can offer a noticeable benefit to those recovering from opioid addiction.

A 2017 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) showed that blending recovery methods through collaborative care helped improve recovery outcomes – and lowered relapse rates – compared to those who just received one method of treatment. Below, we give you a quick overview of the two primary approaches in collaborative care.

The Science of Psychotherapy

Also called "talk therapy," psychotherapy is the science of talking through issues—such as addiction—and having a support person—often a trained counselor or psychologist—to help you achieve desired outcomes, like staying sober. While different treatment centers will take this on with their own unique approach, psychotherapy typically include individual counseling sessions and group therapy. For many people on the road to recovery, psychotherapy is a valuable way to learn new coping methods, process the past, and establish a "toolkit" of recovery skills to help you stay sober and get your life back on track.

For people experiencing opioid addiction, psychotherapy is very important. Making sure you have the right tools, coping skills and new thinking patterns to help you overcome triggers and cravings will help you stay sober – and having a group or a counselor will give you extra support as you recovery.

The Power of Medication-Assisted Treatment

This involves the use of certain medications to help alleviate uncomfortable physical symptoms of withdrawal as someone is recovering from opioid addiction. The most popular medications to treat opioid addiction are Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone. It's important to note that these medications do not facilitate a high like traditional opioids – instead, they help curb negative withdrawal symptoms that often lead people back to using. They simply help restore balance back to the recovering person – an important factor in recovery.

While some treatment centers may not incorporate medication-assisted treatment, the treatment world is getting more and more accepting of the use of medications in addiction treatment. Be sure to ask your treatment center what their approach is and ask if they accept these prescriptions while you're receiving treatment.

Strengthening Your Own Recovery

While the collaborative care method is one of the most effective for opioid addiction, there's a long list of other things you can do to help enhance your recovery and prevent relapse:

  1. Attend community support group meetings.
  2. Establish a sober support network.
  3. Address any mental health concerns you have.
  4. Get your physical health in order.
  5. Assess your living environment and make sure it supports your recovery.

As you or a loved one works to recover from opioid addiction, remember, there are many pathways to recovery. Blending medication-assisted treatment and traditional psychotherapy is a valuable option to the recovery journey, and one that can significantly help prevent relapse.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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