Together, let’s help reduce the stigma of opioid use disorder by recognizing it as the chronic disease it is.
Any one of us can develop a chronic disease, regardless of our background, income level, education level, or other intersecting identities. As with other chronic diseases, this is not about willpower or character. It is about changes in the body, specifically the brain.
From the CDC:
“When people take [substances], the brain is flooded with chemicals that take over the brain’s reward system and cause them to repeat behaviors that feel good but aren’t healthy.
The brain adapts to continued [substance] use by developing a tolerance, which means it takes more of a [substance] to feel the same result.
Not only does this lessen the brain’s ability to resist temptation, but it can also affect the amount of pleasure a person receives from normal, healthy activities like enjoying food or the company of others.
Efforts to save lives from drug overdose are continually evolving.”
Just like treatment for other chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, we have medications and other modalities for treating opioid use disorder.
Ways to treat opioid use disorder and prevent overdose:
1) know there is effective medical treatment for opioid use disorder
2) seek treatment
3) encourage treatment for loved ones
4) remind ourselves and others that there is no shame in having a chronic disease.
Our health care teams also have MOUDs–medications for opioid use disorder:
Another way to prevent overdose is to know about, promote, and even carry NARCAN.
This approach is similar to how many people carry CPR mouthguards in case they witness someone going into cardiac arrest.
Narcan is a medicine that is available in all 50 states. A common form of it–for use in the community–is sprayed into the nose of a person showing signs of overdosing from an opioid. It can be life-saving!
To recap, let us:
Acknowledge and actively reduce the stigma of opioid use disorder
Recognize it as a chronic disease
Promote harm reduction and treatment
Be ready for emergencies!
Learn more about OUD and stigma reduction here