Treating Opioid Addiction
New Enloe program offers hope
It often starts innocently enough with an opioid prescription to treat pain related to a sprained ankle, injury or surgery. Then folks take opioid medications too long — or misuse them — and they get addicted or worse.
In Butte County, hospitalizations and deaths attributed exclusively to opioids are higher than the state average. Enloe Medical Center wants to be a part of solving this startling problem. To that end, we established a new program to offer hope of rehabilitation.
Opioids are a class of drugs from the opium poppy plant that can reduce pain and make people feel relaxed and euphoric. They include legal prescriptions like Vicodin, OxyContin, codeine, methadone and fentanyl, and illegal drugs like heroin.
Butte County's opioid-related deaths are more than double the state average, and nonfatal overdoses are the highest in the state.
Prescription opioids are generally safe when taken for a short time and as directed by a physician. But using these medications in other ways — or with other substances — can flood the brain with dopamine and stop your breathing, leading to death.
Pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s claimed these high-powered pain killers were safe, and this led some providers to over-prescribe them. Years later, it became clear these medications could be highly addictive, and overdose rates began to climb. In 2017, opioid-related overdoses killed more than 47,000 people in the U.S. — a six-fold increase since 1999. Roughly 40% of those fatal opioid overdoses involved prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
North State Residents at Higher Risk
Butte County opioid-related deaths are more than double the state average, and nonfatal overdoses are the highest in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Drug-related hospitalizations, opioid prescriptions and infants born with opioid dependencies are also significantly higher than the state average, according to Jake Miller, Enloe’s substance use navigator.
Enloe Emergency department physician James Moore, M.D., sees the dangerous effects of opioid addiction all too often in patients from all walks of life — from soccer moms to young college students to older adults.
A Bridge to Recovery
“We’re firm believers that personal connection, trust, and the combination of medication-assisted treatment options and behavioral therapy can help make all the difference,” said Jake Miller, Enloe’s substance use navigator. “It’s been amazing to see life-changing results for many of our patients.”
Enloe recently launched a program to provide compassionate, on-the-spot medical care for patients willing to receive treatment for an opioid use disorder. In the past, hospitals could only provide a referral to an addiction treatment program, but patients wouldn’t always attend.
“Now doctors can offer patients newer medications to help ease severe symptoms of withdrawal and curb cravings,” Miller said. Physicians can also provide naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid and prevent death.
And Miller can walk patients and their loved ones through the addiction recovery process, connecting them with a primary care provider, and coordinating counseling and support services, he said. He can also stay in touch with folks, calling them to remind them of appointments, sending them encouraging texts and checking in to see how they’re doing.
“We’re firm believers that personal connection, trust, and the combination of medication-assisted treatment options and behavioral therapy can help make all the difference,” he said. “It’s been amazing to see life-changing results for many of our patients.”
Moore echoes that sentiment.
“Some of the most gratifying stories are young, functional people. They may be college students or moms who are afraid to admit they have a problem,” he said. “You wouldn’t think they have a problem, but when they admit that they do and go through this program, they can get better.”
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one is concerned about opioid substance use disorder, Miller encourages you to call him at (530) 809-6003 for guidance and help to get on the road to recovery.