Treatment tips

What to understand about quitting opioids in the new year

Discover a sustainable plan for quitting opioids in the new year. Learn about medication-assisted treatment (MAT), debunk myths, and find support.

Ophelia team
What to know about quitting opioids
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Arthur Robin Williams, MD

The new year is a time for starting fresh, and many of us mark the occasion by making resolutions for change. For individuals living with an opioid use disorder (OUD), the moment marks an opportunity to commit to a healthier, opioid-free lifestyle.

Unfortunately, new year's resolutions are notoriously tricky to keep, especially when they're as monumental as kicking an addiction. January 19 is even known as "quitter's day," because it's the point when most people tend to give up on their resolutions.

Although overcoming OUD can be difficult, it is possible, and there are resources available to help. Below, we explain how medications for addiction treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) can help you with your resolution and provide some general pointers for success.

Uncomplicating the “new year, new you” mindset

The first step toward keeping your new year's resolution to quit opioids is mental: You have to emotionally commit to starting treatment. That doesn't mean stopping cold-turkey and trying to resist the opiate of your choice on your own. It means seeking and committing to the right treatment for OUD for you.

The key to success is to have a sustainable plan in place, plus a strong network to support your goals. The good news is that there are many resources to help you along the journey, both physically and mentally, from medication-assisted treatment to counseling.

Understanding medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder

Conquering OUD is complicated by the withdrawal symptoms people often face. These can range from mild to severe and may include everything from irritability and anxiety to sweating, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting.

Medications for addiction treatment are designed to help manage opioid withdrawal and reduce cravings, improving the odds of a successful and sustainable recovery. Various medications can be used in MAT for OUD treatment, such as naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone.

Combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, MAT offers a holistic approach to recovery, treating not only the physical but also the psychological and social components of addiction.

5 facts to know about quitting opioids with MAT

MAT is considered the gold standard of OUD treatment, recognized for its efficacy by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among others. However, misconceptions about MAT could keep people who could benefit from this treatment option from taking advantage of it.

If you're considering MAT as part of your new year's plan to conquer OUD, you probably have questions about how it works and what to expect. Here are five facts to help debunk the myths and answer your questions.

1. MAT does not mean replacing one addiction with another

Some people attach a stigma to using medication as part of their treatment, believing they are "replacing" one substance with another. However, taking medication doesn't mean you are developing a new addiction.

Every day, people support their mental and physical health by taking medications that have no association with addiction, from blood pressure meds to diabetes drugs. When taken as prescribed, MAT is the same, reducing cravings and managing withdrawal symptoms without creating a "high."

2. MAT can address addiction to all kinds of opiates, not just heroin

There is an assumption that MAT is only "necessary" for certain types of opiates. However, it isn't any easier to recover from an addiction to prescription medications than it is to recover from an addiction to heroin. MAT can be used to treat addiction to a range of opioids, not just heroin.

In fact, prescription drugs are a recognized contributor to the opioid epidemic in the United States, with overdose deaths involving prescription opioids on the rise over the past decades. Prescription opioid-related substance use disorder may also be especially prevalent in certain populations, notably the elderly.

3. MAT can be used for short- or long-term treatment

Some people assume that MAT is only for short-term treatment and used exclusively to manage withdrawal symptoms in the early stages of recovery. While it's true that some patients only use medications during detox, others may continue treatment for several months or even years.

In fact, some research suggests that patients who stay on MAT for one to two years have the most success with their treatment. Your situation might be different, though. Every patient is unique, and the best way to figure out how MAT will work for you is to talk to a qualified healthcare professional.

4. MAT is affordable and often covered by insurance

MAT is being made increasingly accessible; it's not just something for the rich, found exclusively in fancy, in-patient sobriety centers. In fact, many insurances cover behavioral health treatments, including treatment for OUD. Federal and state-run Medicaid programs also frequently cover MAT.

If you're worried about costs, rest assured that there are resources available to help you figure out the finances. Many MAT providers work with patients to help determine what kind of financial support they're eligible for. For example, Ophelia's enrollment team helps determine costs and coverage.

5. MAT is accessible in rural areas

Historically, treating opioid addiction has proven difficult in rural communities, where care is harder to access. Recognizing this, new initiatives have been implemented by both government bodies and private entities to improve access to care. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a directory of opioid treatment programs and a physician locator you can access online, as well as a national helpline.

Ophelia is one tool people can use to access MAT if they live in rural areas. If you're eligible, our care team will call a prescription for MAT into your local pharmacy, while you can get additional support you need online.

With Ophelia, your new year's resolution to move beyond your OUD can become a reality. 


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