The weight of the opioid addiction continues to press down on the United States, keeping the public health crisis of opioid addiction at the forefront. There’s hardly any part of the country that hasn’t felt the epidemic, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights data that shows opioids were involved in almost 70 percent of all overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2018.

Here, in New Jersey, “nearly 90 percent of the 2,900 reported drug overdose deaths in New Jersey involved opioids in 2018—a total of 2,583 fatalities (and a rate of 29.7),” NIDA reports, painting a pretty grim picture of how the state is losing people to this deadly epidemic.

Opioids, a class of drugs that have been widely prescribed to treat moderate-to-severe pain since the 1990s, have kept their place among the top news stories over the years. Opioids also include heroin, an illegal substance, and fentanyl, a legitimate pain medication that has found its way into the mix of street drugs, making them more deadly to use.

It is now common practice for dealers to add fentanyl to other substances, a drug that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. A 2 mg (milligram) dose of fentanyl can be fatal for the average person. Unfortunately, many people use these altered drugs without knowing how lethal they are. When they find out, it is often too late to save them.

Opioid addiction continues to claim lives, but some people are exploring their options for opioid treatment in New Jersey so that they can start anew without substance use. The challenges to overcoming dependence on any drug await anyone who is willing to try, and this is true of working to end opioid use as well. Learn how professional treatment can help you can rebuild your life as you work to overcome opioid use disorder.

Opioid Addiction Treatment Options in New Jersey

A widely used approach to address opioid addiction is MAT, which stands for medication-assisted treatment. MAT can also be used to treat people who have an alcohol use disorder. It involves using medicines along with behavioral therapies therapy, counseling, and other services to treat substance use disorders. These components are all designed to encourage the “whole-person” approach to addressing the physical, mental, and psychological factors that can contribute to opioid use disorder.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the primary goal of MAT is to help people achieve full recovery from chronic opioid use. It says the treatment approach:

  • Improves survival rates of people who use opioids chronically
  • Increases treatment program retention rates
  • Discourages the use of illegal opioids, such as heroin
  • Decreases criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Aids in helping people gain employment and remain employed
  • Improves outcomes among women with substance use disorders who give birth

Medication-assisted treatment has been found to help prevent opioid overdose with medicines that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved. People who chronically use opioid-based medications but relapse whenever they try to end their use may find the MAT approach beneficial. Chronic heroin users are also prime candidates for this treatment program.

People who are recovering from heroin use and other prescription medications with opiate ingredients also may find this treatment useful.

MAT aims to:

  • Safely manage drug withdrawal, which can be dangerous without medical help
  • Teach people how to manage their opioid cravings
  • Share strategies for coping with triggers in a healthy way
  • Help individuals avoid relapse, which can end in overdose or death
  • Keep people focused on their resolve to stop or reduce chronic opioid use

Suboxone, buprenorphine, and methadone are prescription medications used in a MAT program. They are administered to wean people off stronger opioids gradually and safely. A tapered approach gives the body time to adjust as the amount of the drug in the body is reduced over time.

SAMHSA writes that the prescription medicines work to “normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative effects of the abused drug.”

Is Medication-Assisted Treatment Effective?

Medication-assisted treatment might not be for everyone working on quitting or cutting down on opioid use, but, according to SAMHSA, some who have tried MAT reported positive results. Still, despite its wins, MAT is not used as much as it could be, according to the federal agency.

One key criticism is the use of medications, even weaker opioids like buprenorphine, to help people treat their opioid dependence. Some see this as an exchange of addictions. While any drug can be misused in a way that is not its intended purpose, SAMHSA notes that when medications are used in the proper dose in a MAT program, there are “no adverse effects on a person’s intelligence, mental capability, physical functioning, or employability,” it writes.

It also notes that the FDA-approved medications help to relieve withdrawal symptoms and psychological drug cravings that create chemical imbalances that perhaps could be harder to manage outside of MAT treatment. Also, “MAT programs provide a safe and controlled level of medication to overcome the use of an abused opioid,” it writes.

MAT participants also must agree to receive monitored medical care, vocational guidance, and other services and programs developed to help them achieve their recovery goals.

You can find facilities in New Jersey that offer medication-assisted treatment to aid in addressing an addiction to opioids. Depending on your situation, you may be directed to enroll in an inpatient or residential program, or you might be able to receive MAT therapy after enrolling in an intensive outpatient program.

How New Jersey is Handling the Opioid Crisis

The battle of opioid addiction that so many people face is not theirs alone. New Jersey is also on the frontlines in addressing this public health threat with programs and services. The state’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services supports a Medication-Assisted Treatment Initiative that treats opioid use disorders.

An aerial shot of Trenton, NJ

The state also has other initiatives that address opioid abuse. In recent years, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has hosted statewide town hall meetings to raise awareness about prescription opioids and share tips for the responsible use of these medications. Disposing of opioid pain relievers can help reduce the chances of the prescription medications ending up in the wrong person’s hands.

Overprescribing practices nationwide have been linked to a key factor in the spike in opioid use. Medication that hasn’t been disposed of properly or destroyed means it will end up in possession of people who aren’t supposed to have or use it.

New Jersey has aimed to reduce the number of prescriptions issued in the state, and its efforts appear to have made a dent. According to NIDA, New Jersey providers wrote 38.9 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons in 2018, compared to the average U.S. rate of 51.4 prescriptions.

The state also has created the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator of Addiction Response and Enforcement Strategies, known as NJ CARES. The initiative pairs up people with substance use disorders with options for addiction treatment.  NJ CARES also created Opioid Response Teams that work 24/7 seven days a week to help people who are struggling with severe opioid dependence.


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