One of the nation’s most prominent health topics has again come into focus with a recent upsurge of high-profile overdose cases. Physicians at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center say they hope this can serve as a wake-up call for others who may need help.

Opioids can negatively affect heart rate, sleeping and breathing, while also holding the potential to be highly addictive, says psychiatrist Katia Stoletniy, MD. Stoletniy said she hopes healthcare providers can learn more about addiction and slow the opioid crisis even further.

Improving addiction treatment

There are more than 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in California each year, according to the most recent data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Most people taking opioids don’t know they are at risk of addiction. It may take as few as 4-5 days of taking an opioid to create dependence,” Stoletniy says.

Misuse of prescription opioids has been a serious public health problem in the United States. According to results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 20 percent of the population ages 12 and older have used medications for non-medical reasons at least once in their lifetime. The survey also showed that deaths due to overdose on opioid pain relievers have more than tripled in the past 20 years.

“Addiction is a medical condition of the same caliber as diabetes and hypertension, and as such, it may require professional help to stabilize and treat,” Stoletniy says. “Recent events call for more awareness in the professional field as well as in each individual who may be dealing with — or know of someone dealing with — addiction.”

Roots of Recovery

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines recovery as ceasing usage of an addictive drug, but Stoletniy believes it means more than that. “It means building a life of integrity, serenity and connection to others,” she says.

Behavioral health facilities offer substance use recovery programs in response to the increase in abuse and overdose. “We recommend programs that work to reduce the risks associated with opioid abuse or overdose, and that foster recovery in its fullest meaning,” Stoletniy says.

Many programs offer medically managed inpatient detoxification program, as well as outpatient rehab programs and aftercare groups for rehab graduates. 

Substance use programs

Rehab programs may seem daunting, but many recovery programs focus on building community and individual wellness — not on criticizing or accusing those who may be abusing a drug. “Substance use programs teach about the disease of addiction, provide new coping skills, educate on relapse prevention and help reinsert the person into society,” Stoletniy says.

“Programs foster the development of relationships that support recovery,” she says. “They surround the individual with the knowledge that help is available, and it will get better.”

Visit our behavioral health services website to learn more about the substance use treatments offered at the Loma Linda University Health. Request information on a specific area, and one of our intake coordinators will contact you.