Scientists find the key to recovering from opioid addiction

In a new study, researchers found the key to recovering from opioid abuse is getting intensive medical, psychological and social support services over a longer period of time.

This means successful recovery from opioid use disorder appears to be even more challenging than recovery from alcohol use disorder.

The research was conducted by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Although the extent of the opioid crisis in the U.S. makes headlines daily, there is sparse scientific or clinical information on recovery from opioid use disorders.

In the study, the team examined data from the 2017 National Recovery Survey that consisted of a sample of adults 18 and older who reported resolving an opioid problem.

They found that 1.18 million American adults have resolved a primary opioid use problem.

Among those who achieved longer-term recovery from opioid addition (between 1 and 5 years since resolving a problem), people who had resolved an opioid problem were more to have used formal addiction treatment, pharmacotherapy (drugs to prevent cravings or relapse such as methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone), recovery support services, and mutual help (such as Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step programs).

The team found those who resolved an opioid problem in mid-recovery were four times as likely to have ever used pharmacotherapies, two-and-a-half times more likely to have used formal treatment, and about two times more likely to use recovery support services and mutual help organizations compared with individuals who reported resolving an alcohol problem and were in mid-recovery.

The finding shows individuals with an opioid problem might require additional treatment or additional resources to achieve longer and more stable recovery duration.

The team also found self-esteem levels among the opioid group were lower than the alcohol group in the mid-recovery period.

Lower self-esteem in mid-recovery may be related to the extra challenges of opioid recovery, including longer duration or greater use of treatment and recovery services, more frequent relapses and societal attitudes about opioids.

In addition, compared with people with alcohol use disorder, people with opioid problems tend to be more socially stigmatized, have fewer resources available, and may be less likely to disclose their recovery status to others, which could make them feel more lonely or isolated.

This is the first national study of opioid problem resolution, and it provides the first national prevalence estimate of opioid to recover.

The authors of the study include Lauren A. Hoffman, Ph.D., Corrie Vilsaint, Ph.D., and John F. Kelly, Ph.D., from the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS).

The study is published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

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