4 Effective Ways to Treat the Adolescent Opioid Epidemic

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The United States has been struggling with a growing issue of an Adolescent Opioid Epidemic and substance misuse and addiction for the past two decades, as seen by the rise in drug overdose deaths. Recent research shows that the problem extends beyond opioids to include other illegal substances like cocaine and methamphetamine.

Opioid abuse and addiction, which includes prescription pain medications, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl, is a significant national issue that negatively impacts public health and social and economic well-being. Fortunately, treatments and therapies for addicted teens are available and administered by professionals in the medical field.

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How Opioids Became Popular in the United States

Prescription medicines were the most abused drugs in 2020, according to research. Adolescents aged 12 to 17 account for 4.9% of cases of nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers, while young adults aged 18 to 25 account for 14.4%. The majority of young individuals use illegal substances before they turn 21. Although the numbers decline year after year, most parents are still concerned that their child may experiment or abuse such substances.

Over 2.5 million Americans have an opioid use disorder (OUD), which has resulted in over 28,000 overdose deaths in 2014 and 50,000 deaths in 2019. Opioids, like prescription painkillers or heroin, can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome and spread infectious illnesses like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “economic burden” of prescription opioid abuse in the United States is about $78.5 billion per year, including healthcare expenditures, lost productivity, addiction treatments, and criminal justice interventions.

Opioid Dependence

Drug addiction, often referred to as substance use disorder (SUD), is a mental health issue. Opioid addiction leads to more hospitalizations for SUD treatment than any other substance apart from alcohol.

Detoxification is a medical term that refers to the body’s natural elimination of poisons. Also known as “detox,” it allows the body to rid itself of substances. When someone quits using drugs or alcohol, detox is often used to treat withdrawal symptoms. There is the option of staying at home or going to outpatient or inpatient therapy. Many factors influence which choice is suitable for your teen, including:

  • The kind of substance used.
  • The degree of addiction.
  • History of acute withdrawal symptoms.
  • Existing health issues.

Note that detoxing at home might be dangerous. It is something that affects both the physical and psychological well-being of the individual. As such, detoxing without supervision or assistance is typically not a good idea. Detox treatments, including inpatient and outpatient programs, can help avoid hazardous consequences. Inpatient detox is recommended for people with severe addictions since withdrawal can be deadly. This program provides care and supervision 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Effective Solutions for the Opiate Epidemic Among Adolescents

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has authorized three medications for treating opioid addiction: buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. In conjunction with counseling and psychological support, these three drugs have proven to be safe and effective. People seeking treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) should be given all three choices, allowing physicians to choose the therapy that is most suited to their situation.

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Listed below are four practical ways to treat the opiate epidemic among adolescents: medications, therapies and counseling, residential treatment, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Medications

When used to treat opioid use disorder, methadone is always provided in a clinical setting and included in therapy with counseling. It relieves withdrawal symptoms and satisfies cravings without producing the same high as other opioids. It is generally a daily dosage put under the tongue, but it can also be a monthly injection or supplied by tiny tubes inserted under the skin for about six months, depending on how the physician prescribes it.

Methadone and buprenorphine can help with an addict’s cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications function on the same brain targets as other opioids, but they do not make a person feel “high.” Some people are concerned that taking these medications may result in them switching one addiction for another, but this is not the case. They are a form of treatment that assists in rebalancing the brain regions that have been impacted by addiction. They also permit the brain to repair, so a person can focus on recovery and healing. Both of these medications reduce cravings by activating opioid receptors in the body. They are scientifically proven to be effective, have similar safety and adverse effects, and are generally used for maintenance therapy. They can also be used to wean someone off opioids. However, for patients who frequently relapse, physicians must attempt a different approach. Patients who are inspired, highly motivated, and have a stable social support network are more likely to succeed with these treatments.

Some popular brands of buprenorphine are Probuphine (subdermal), Sublocade (subcutaneous), and Subutex (sublingual tablet). When a respiratory arrest has occurred or is imminent due to an opioid overdose, then naloxone can be administered. This is used to reverse the damaging effects of an opioid overdose. It washes out receptors and can stop an overdose, but it is not considered an addiction therapy. It is an “emergency” medication and is not prescribed for extended periods.

Physicians might also prescribe a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. The former can make someone less prone to abuse the latter. Some of the known brands of this combination are Bunavail, Zubsolv, and Suboxone.

Furthermore, naltrexone is a unique medication that works by blocking the euphoric/sedative effects of opioids rather than turning on the opioid receptors. Before starting naltrexone, a patient’s system must be clear of any opioids for at least seven to ten days. Otherwise, they might experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone can be given orally or as an injection once a month. It differs from methadone and buprenorphine in how it works. It does not minimize cravings or withdrawal symptoms. Instead, it prevents someone from getting the “high” that they might typically experience from opioids. As a result, naltrexone is taken to avoid a relapse rather than to wean someone off opioids.

According to a new study, treatment with extended-release naltrexone decreased relapse rates among criminal justice participants with a history of opioid addiction. These medications are safe to use for months, years, or even a lifetime. However, a user must not attempt to quit them on their own. They should speak with their health care physician first to devise a plan for quitting.

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Therapies and counseling

Setting objectives, discussing failures, and celebrating success are all examples of individual therapy. Your teen can discuss legal issues and family issues. Specific behavioral treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, are frequently used in counseling. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) enables your child to detect and break harmful thought and behavior patterns. It teaches them coping skills, such as handling stress and modifying the beliefs that lead to opiate abuse. It stresses the significance of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors that can impact social relationships. CBT recognizes and confronts these thoughts, then replaces them with more objective, realistic ones. CBT is one of the types of therapy used in our Los Angeles Teen Treatment Program.

Furthermore, motivational enhancement therapy can help your teen stay on track with their treatment plan by increasing their motivation. Meanwhile, contingency management focuses on rewarding positive actions, such as abstaining from opioids.

Learn about our teen opioid addiction treatment program below.

Group counseling might make them feel like they are not alone. Your child will get to learn about the struggles and triumphs of others who are facing similar issues. It might assist them in learning new techniques for dealing with various challenges.

Another counseling type is family counseling, which involves close family members. This can aid in the rehabilitation and enhancement of family connections.

Drug use counselors might also refer your child to other treatment support groups and resources that might fit their condition, such as peer support, spiritual, or educational groups. They might even suggest that your teen undergoes HIV testing, care management, and hepatitis screening.

Residential treatment

Housing and therapy services are combined in residential programs. Your teen is in the same house as their peers, and they can help each other stay in recovery. For those with medical issues, inpatient hospital-based programs integrate health care and addiction treatment treatments. Intensive outpatient therapy is sometimes available at hospitals. All of these treatments are well organized and structured, and they often incorporate a variety of counseling and behavioral therapy. They frequently involve the use of medications as well.

Medication-Assisted Treatment?

The use of medication in conjunction with therapies and counseling is known as medication-assisted therapy (MAT). It aims to give a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of SUDs. The medications used in MAT have been authorized by the FDA. MAT programs are clinically based and customized according to each patient’s requirements.

As per research, combining medication and therapy can treat SUDs more effectively. MAT aids in the long-term rehabilitation of people dealing with addiction. It is also used to mitigate the effects of an opioid overdose.

MAT reduces opioid usage, overdose fatalities, criminal activities, and the spread of opioid-related infectious diseases. After a research period in 2009, researchers concluded that heroin overdose fatalities in Baltimore fell by 37% when buprenorphine became available. Furthermore, MAT improves one’s social functioning and treatment compliance. Compared to individuals who do not get medication, those who receive it are more likely to remain in therapy.

Methadone or buprenorphine treatment for opioid-dependent pregnant women improves their pregnancy health and natal outcomes. In addition, MAT decreases the symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome and period of hospital stay.

The emergency department (ED) is a clinically recommendable place to assess individuals for opioid use disorder and begin MAT. In comparison with patients who are referred for therapy sessions, those who start MAT in the ED are at least three times as likely to pursue and stick with the treatment plan.

Prevent teenage opioid addiction

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the treatment options for opioid use disorder?
    The four scientifically proven treatment options for opioid use disorder are medications, therapies and counseling, residential treatment, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
  2. What is the first line of treatment for opioid use disorder?
    The first step to recovery is called detoxification. Detox aims to clear the body of substances, such as alcohol, pills, and drugs, that could cause a person to become addicted or dependent.
  3. Which medication is frequently used to treat opioid addiction?
    According to the World Health Organization, medications called buprenorphine and methadone are considered “essential medicines” for treating opioid addiction. Furthermore, naltrexone might also be prescribed for patients who need to reduce the “high” feeling of the drugs. Lastly, naloxone can be administered during emergencies.

    Encourage Your Child to Seek Help

    When it comes to substance misuse, individuals who are ready to address their problems want an open door and rapid assistance. If your child is suffering from an addiction, then they should want to get treatment. Encourage this behavior. Although friends and family members might find it challenging to cope with the shift, you must be the first to support your teen struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

You Are Not Alone

At Key Transitions, we aim to provide comprehensive teen substance abuse therapy to avoid fatal consequences. Since the risks of being addicted are increasing for most teenagers in the United States, we keep striving to provide the best teen opioid abuse treatment for your child.

Furthermore, we also offer a Teen IOP (Teen Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program), a well-planned and evidence-based method for treating adolescents and teens struggling with drug addiction, behavioral difficulties, or mental health challenges.

Parents, we are here to help you navigate through your child’s journey to recovery. Feel free to reach out to us as soon as possible.

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