Fighting Opioid Addiction with Therapy

By Ella Clayton


The opioid crisis is a fast-growing, dangerous epidemic in America. Opioids are extremely powerful and addictive drugs that reduce the perception of pain and create a sense of pleasure. Opioids are highly addictive and require higher dosages with each use to maintain the same effect. This increased tolerance can potentially lead to fatal overdosing. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Six out of 10 fatal drug overdoses involve the use of an opioid.

            There are three categories of people who are most at risk for opioid addiction; adolescents, people with a history of chronic pain and people already addicted to another drug or substance. The use of opioids in adolescents has significantly increased since 1975, and the age of first use is decreasing. These growing teens, and young adults are highly susceptive to addiction, and full dependence on opioids can occur in adolescents in a mere few months of use. Unfortunately, these drugs have become easily available for adolescents to purchase or even find in their own homes. 

            Prescription opioids are often given to patients with chronic pain. Although they are made to help with pain management, the patient can become dependent on opioids. One in four patients in primary care who receive prescription opioids become addicted. A great deal of caution must be taken when using prescription opioids for pain management.

            People who are already addicted to drugs, or other substances may become dependent on opioids because they are more easily obtained compared to other addictive drugs. People with substance-abuse disorders may snort, crush or inject opioids to increase their effects. These methods of substance abuse may lead to serious medical issues or possibly death.

            If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction, it is important to seek treatment and help to avoid serious medical issues, or potentially a fatal overdose. Occupational therapy is a great option to reduce opioid dependency. Occupational therapy can help opioid addicted patients with setting goals, creating distractions from pain, learning self-management for pain flare-ups, establishing effective sleep habits, managing stress, and getting help from a peer-support network. Occupational therapy for opioid reduction uses psychologically based strategies, and behavioral therapy/psychotherapeutic approaches to effectively provide treatment for patients.  Another nonpharmacologic therapy option is Physical Agent Modalities, which offer evidence-based treatment alternatives to decrease acute and chronic pain and can be used to replace and wean an individual from narcotics.  A Physical Therapist can evaluate you to determine which type of Physical Agent Modality can be utilized to best treat your condition. One great example is electrotherapy, which provides pain relief by activating natural physiological mechanisms like releasing the body’s natural opioids. By seeking relief from opioid addiction through nonpharmacologic therapy options like occupational therapy or physical therapy you or your loved one can achieve a happy and healthier opioid free life.