If you have had two or more of the following within a single 12 month period, then you have opiate use disorder:
1. Opioids are taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than you planned.
2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control opioid use.
3. A great deal of time is spent in finding the opioid, using the opioid, or recovering from it.
4. Craving, or a strong desire to use opioids.
5. Recurrent opioid use resulting in failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home.
6. Continued opioid use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or worsened by the effects of opioids.
7. Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of opioid use.
8. Recurrent opioid use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
9. Continued use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by opioids.
10. Tolerance - needing more opioids to get the same effect or less effect felt with continued use of the same amount of an opioid
11. Withdrawal - having symptoms of withdrawal when not using the opioid or needing to use an opioid or something similar to avoid withdrawal symptoms
Currently, the best evidence supports treatment with an opiate agonist like methadone or suboxone (also called buprenorphine). Detoxification can also be done, but has a high risk of relapse, and people are at risk of overdose after detox, because they may use the same amount of opioid they did before they detoxed, but your body loses tolerance quickly to opiates (within a couple of days).
In this type of treatment, the patient is prescribed a substitution medication such as methadone or suboxone (also called buprenorphine), so that they can reduce the harm of opiate use to their bodies and to their lives. This usually means that they stop having to buy illegal opiates, which can help them get their life back, whether that is through returning to work or school, or just by being part of their family again.
Some people are concerned that this treatment means they are trading "one addiction for another". Although all opiates make you physically dependent on them, having a steady dose of opiate in your body instead of the rapid ups and downs of using short acting opiates helps keep a person level. Also, because you no longer need to look for opiates, or try to find the money for them, or hide what you are doing, or try to cover up recovering from their effects, you really can go back to leading a completely normal life.
I often tell people it is similar to having diabetes. Some people with diabetes need to be on medication. This is not an issue of willpower - they need the medicine to continue to live their lives. Other diabetics may lose a lot of weight, and eat perfectly, and may get off of the diabetes medicines. But very few of those people do, and we don't expect them to, or make them feel ashamed of this. The same is true of opiate addiction.
This will depend on a lot of things - including how each medication makes you feel, as well as how you pay for your medication, and what other health issues you have.
Buprenorphine is available as a daily sublingual (under the tongue) tablet, a once a month injection (available in November 2019) and as a 6 month implant (available now). Dr. Holowaty is trained in placing the Probuphine implants.
We have partnered with Addictions and Mental Health Hastings Prince Edward to provide counselling on Tuesday mornings as well.
Both methadone and buprenorphine are very good pain medications. Some people worry about the naloxone component in Suboxone (the trade name for buprenorphine/naloxone in Canada). Naloxone is NOT absorbed by mouth. It was added to prevent people from injecting it. If you inject naloxone, it produces a rapid withdrawal effect. But you do not need to worry about that if you are taking the medication as prescribed, under your tongue.
Please come to the rapid access addiction medicine clinic hours Tuesdays from 830-12 and 1-5 PM for an intake visit, or call to see if you can come at a different time. We now have an intake nurse who can do Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to get a prescription started for you until Dr. Holowaty is able to see you.
If you are not in the area, but a different part of Ontario, please go to the Drug and Alcohol Helpline (1-800-565-8603) to connect with programs and services in your area.
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