Continuing reports of heroin overdose deaths that appear to be related to contamination of the drug with the opioid fentanyl have prompted the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) this month to issue an advisory to the treatment community about the situation.
The advisory asks treatment providers to alert patients and the general public to the threat of fatal overdose, and it highlights SAMHSA's recently issued Opioid Overdose Toolkit that is tailored to use by a number of community stakeholders.
The advisory also furnishes information about SAMHSA's Treatment Locator service (800-662-4357) and states with regard to treatment advances, “Medication assisted treatment using FDA-approved treatments such as methadone, buprenorphine and extended release naltrexone can effectively treat heroin/opioid addictions and enable people to recover to healthy, productive lives.”
According to the advisory, the origin of the fentanyl that implicated in numerous deaths reported since the beginning of the calendar year is unknown. SAMHSA says that there is significant potential for expansion of a deadly trend that generally has been concentrated in Northeast states according to the most recent reports.
The Addiction Professionals group on LinkedIn continues to discuss whether recent high-profile events, particularly the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this month, will create teachable moments in the treatment and recovery communities. Several comments in recent days have focused on the importance of ongoing monitoring strategies to improve long-term recovery prospects.
One addiction counselor commented, “I experience three to five, sometimes more, deaths each year, of people who have crossed my path at some point in the last 13 years I've been in this field. … The one most valuable position I have seen be most effective in having long-term success really be an option is for the 'team' (addict, family, friends, clinicians) all [to] agree on a five-year monitoring plan and have a recovery assistant/coach truly be in place for that whole time.”
She continued, “Urinalysis accountability along with detailed action plans leads to success. This is workable for any financial status. Education is not enough; people need to plan for long-term sobriety the way they plan for retirement.”
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