The more we learn about opioid addiction, the more new questions arise.
Two facts are undeniable: Opioid addiction is a complex problem our entire community faces, and it will take our entire community to solve it.
We do know more, but myths, misinformation and stigma make those facts harder to share. Take a few moments to separate fact from fiction, and help start the conversation.
MYTH 1: There’s no place to dispose of medicine safely, so it’s okay to keep it as long as it’s out of my kids’ reach.
FACT: Most misused prescription drugs are obtained right from our medicine cabinets.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Lock up your prescription medications and safely dispose of unused medications at drop-off locations throughout the community and at drug take-back events; see RAYSAC.org and DEAdiversion.usdoj.gov for current information.
MYTH 2: Smoking marijuana and drinking at parties with friends is an inevitable rite of passage for teens, and nothing to worry about.
FACT: Adolescent use of alcohol/drugs can increase a person’s risk for addiction.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Talk openly with children, friends, relatives and health care providers about alcohol or drug misuse of any type.
Pay attention to early warning signs like changes in behavior, appearance, relationships, sleep, mood, school or work performance, stealing and increased spending.
Express concern without confrontation; offer to provide support in finding help. Find early warning signs and prevention tips at OperationPrevention.com.
MYTH 3: People choose to use drugs. Addicts don’t need treatment.
FACT: Substance use disorders are stigmatized as poor choices. However, addiction is not an active choice.
Everyone makes at least some poor decisions as they deal with life’s challenges, and each person’s brain responds to those poor choices differently.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Understand that addiction arises from biological changes to the brain that result in physical and psychological dependence on a substance to function.
View people with addiction without judgment, and help remove the stigma associated with addiction.
MYTH 4: There are no treatment options available in my area at all, especially if you don’t have insurance.
FACT: Finding treatment can be difficult, but intervention initiatives are increasing and new treatment opportunities are in continual development.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Reach out to the Roanoke Valley HOPE Initiative at 540-339-9010 for free current information about treatment options. Help spread the word about this valuable community resource.
MYTH 5: Medication-assisted treatment (methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone) is just replacing one addiction with another.
FACT: This belief is another form of stigma that prevents individuals with substance use disorders from achieving recovery.
Medication-assisted treatment is the standard of care for opioid addiction, ideally combined with counseling. These medications keep people alive, promote recovery and make a full life possible.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Understand that, like other chronic diseases, lifelong recovery supports are important for those with substance use disorders to sustain healthy, drug-free lives.
MYTH 6: Opioids are the only option for those having surgical procedures.
FACT: Pain management is a growing specialty in the health care setting, and opioids are just one option out of many.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Ask your health care provider for alternative methods of pain management besides opioids, including exercise, mindfulness, nutrition and aromatherapy.
MYTH 7: Completing a treatment program means a person is cured of their addiction.
FACT: Substance use disorders are a chronic illness, which means recovery is a lifelong process. It does not look the same for everyone, and will change for each person throughout their lifetime.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Prepare yourself, as part of your loved one’s support system, to embrace them if they need to increase their professional supports again in the future.
MYTH 8: Using drugs and alcohol feels good, and recovery requires giving up all of your friends.
FACT: Drug or alcohol addictions take a significant toll on a person’s ability to enjoy life and engage with the world, their friends and their family.
Recovery makes it possible for a person to rediscover personal likes and dislikes and redefine their future.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Help your loved one embrace a recovery community filled with people who are committed to their own and each other’s well-being.
Carilion Clinic’s #ALLIN program is led by peers in recovery who are ready to welcome and embrace people without judgment. Contact #ALLIN at allin@CarilionClinic.org or 540-981-7357.
MYTH 9: Recovery costs too much.
FACT: Treatment can be expensive; however, substance use can be very expensive over time, and recovery will likely save money.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Talk with your loved one honestly about the costs of their substance abuse, both financial and in terms of lost personal and professional relationships.
Offer to provide them support as they seek help.
- National Drug Take Back: DEAdiversion.usdoj.gov
- Roanoke Area Youth Substance Use Coalition: RAYSAC.org
- Operation Prevention: OperationPrevention.com
- Roanoke Valley HOPE initiative: 540-339-9010 (M-F, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
- #ALLIN Recovery Community: allin@CarilionClinic.org or 540-981-7357
EDUCATION AND TRAINING:
- Addiction as a Disease Presentation: Carilion Clinic’s Well Said Health Education Speaker Program; call 540-983-4053
- Screening, Brief Intervention & Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Training: contact Carilion Clinic at 540-981-7099
- Mental Health First Aid training: contact Carilion Clinic at 540-983-4053. Available for adults, youth or higher education via National Council for Behavioral Health
- Peer Recovery Specialist Training: Carilion Clinic program; contact Erin Casey at 540-981-7357