Their stories are all different, but they ended up in the same place-suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) and desperate for help.
Melinda Goodwin works with OUD patients for a non-profit organization in Pennsylvania, a state hit hard by the opioid misuse epidemic. In 2015, more than 3,500 people died of opioid overdose in Pennsylvania, according to CDC statistics, and Pennsylvania is one of 19 states that saw a “significant” increase in fatal opioid overdose rates between 2014 and 2015.
Despite these grim statistics, there are people who are successfully breaking opioid’s hold. Ms. Goodwin sees people at their lowest point but has also seen people, through a combination of medication assisted treatment and intense counseling, reclaim their lives.
Here are some success stories (names have been changed):
Carol sought treatment in 2010. She had a traumatic childhood, legal trouble, difficult family dynamics, and multiple family members who also suffer from substance use disorders. With medication assisted treatment and therapy, she is now working a full-time job, has learned to set healthy boundaries in relationships, is committed to long-term sobriety, and is currently taking classes to be a Certified Recovery Specialist.
Anne, like so many people who seek treatment, overdosed after leaving a rehab center. MAT, combined with therapy, has allowed for her to gain better relationships with family members, establish healthy connections with peers, and address her physical and dental health issues. It’s been one year since she has taken opioids.
Peter credits methadone with saving his life. He was using 10 bags of heroin a day and had been arrested for possession. He was unemployed and running out of hope before he sought a combination of medication assisted treatment and therapy. He was able to complete drug court, get a job, and attend AA meetings. He has worked hard in therapy, both individual and group, a vital part used in combination with methadone treatment. Peter has not used heroin in three years and is training to help others with OUD and substance use disorder (SUD).
What many people fail to understand, says Ms. Goodwin, is that many people suffering from OUD also suffer from mental disorders that often go undiagnosed and untreated. It is extremely difficult, she says, to treat OUD or SUD without treating the underlying issues that often lead to such behavior. Even those who do not have a comorbid mental disorder often experience traumatizing events when they are taking illicit drugs that must be dealt with professionally.
Those suffering from SUD have to recognize that recovery can take years and many times cannot be “cured” with a 30-day stint in rehab, she noted, or with a few therapy sessions. “The damage that has been done in such a profound way cannot be fixed in a few hours. These people are so broken, it takes years to recover.”