Q: My cousin is battling opioid addiction that started after he had a knee replacement four years ago. He just isn't getting the care he needs to overcome it. Why is it so hard to find help and get off these drugs? -- Carl O., Fresno, California
A: I am sorry your cousin and your family are contending with this all-too-common health challenge. A recent survey by KFF (formerly called Kaiser Family Foundation) found that 66% of Americans say that either they or a member of their family has been addicted to alcohol or drugs, been homeless because of addiction or died from it. And almost 20% say they themselves have been addicted to drugs or alcohol, experienced a drug overdose or become homeless because of addiction. That's a staggering number of folks dealing with addiction, but as a country, we too often still approach care and treatment as if addiction isn't a mainstream problem.
KFF reports that 43% of doctors fail to talk to their patients about the risks of addiction when taking opioids and 40% fail to mention alternative medications to control pain. The survey also says that only 46% of those with addiction in their families say that person got treatment. So it's not surprising that a new study in JAMA reveals that among folks who were addicted in the past year, only about 37% received any kind of treatment during that year and only 20% of folks received medication to assist with treatment.
You can talk with your cousin about the very effective medications that may boost success in getting off opioids. They are buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. All three help normalize brain chemistry, easing cravings and blunt feeling "high." The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says they can be safely taken for months, years, or even a lifetime. Other effective resources include 12-step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy and working with a pain management specialist to slowly and safely decrease the dose taken.
Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. Check out his latest, "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow," and find out more at www.longevityplaybook.com. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Mike at [email protected].
King Features Syndicate