Know the facts about addiction to help your fellow Hoosiers
Substance use disorder is impacting our state. Many of those struggling with addiction are people we know – our family members, our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors. They face a wide range of stigmas that may prevent them from seeking treatment.
Whether you or someone you know love is suffering from addiction, the more you know about opioid and substance use disorders, the more compassionate and supportive person you can be.
It's a disease.
There is treatment.
Recovery is possible.
What is addiction?
Addiction to drugs, also know as substance use disorder, is a disease that affects thousands of Hoosiers. Those who are struggling with substance use disorder are unable to control their use of legal or illegal drugs. For many, addiction begins quietly. It may start with the recreational use of a drug. In the case of opioids and other painkillers, it may begin when a doctor prescribes a medication. Whatever the reason, once addicted, this disease affects a person's brain, and they will continue to use the drug despite repercussions.
Addiction is a disease, but with support and treatment, there is hope. See Tony's story to learn more about his recovery.
Born and raised in Muncie, Indiana, Tony is the youngest of six kids, proudly raised by his mother and father in a loving home. For Tony, his addiction to crack cocaine started recreationally, “We just wanted to live in the moment. We thought everyone was doing it. We never thought addiction would happen to us.”
As he used crack cocaine, he didn’t think he had an addiction because he was able to keep his house in order and maintain his job. But, over time, he realized crack was all he cared about. Soon, his clothes weren’t fitting him like they used to, and he was becoming more and more isolated from his friends and family. Finally, he knew he had to get away from that lifestyle. He moved to Indianapolis and began working on himself.
It took about two years for Tony to feel he had really moved into recovery. He credits his recovery to his strong upbringing and family connections, “Regardless of what I’ve done in my life, my brothers and sisters have been my rock. Without them, I don’t think I could have done it.” Tony is sharing his story to give others hope.
He has been living in recovery for 27 years!
"If you never accept that addiction's a disease, you'll never be able to really help."
Reducing the stigma
Everyone can help reduce the stigma around opioid use disorder by focusing on the person NOT the disorder.
Join other Hoosiers and Take the Pledge to help reduce the stigma around opioid use disorder.
What is treatment?
Once we understand that addiction is a disease, the barriers to seeking and obtaining treatment are reduced. Substance use disorders can be treated, and people need to be aware of this fact. While there are many different types of treatment, there is no single solution or quick fix to addiction. The right treatment, or combination of treatment methods, is unique to each individual. But, to live in recovery, everyone has to begin somewhere.
Treatment types include, but are not limited to:
The most effective method of treatment for an opioid use disorder, which is a type of substance use disorder, is called medication-assisted treatment. A MAT treatment program combines the use of one of three FDA-approved medications with counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy.
The three medications are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Each medication works differently to reduce opioid withdrawal and craving symptoms and/or block opioids’ euphoric effects on the brain. Patients will respond differently to the various medications, and it is recommended that an individual work with a health care provider to find the right form of treatment for them.
Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid medication that can prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce craving in opioid-addicted individuals. It also blocks the effects of illicit opioids.
Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid medication that produces less of the euphoria and sedation but is able to reduce or eliminate withdrawal and craving symptoms.
Naltrexone is a synthetic opioid that blocks opioids from binding to their receptors and thereby prevents their euphoric and other effects. An individual must abstain from opioid use for seven to 10 days before starting Naltrexone or they will withdraw. Naltrexone itself has no mind-altering effect following detoxification and has no potential for misuse.
Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy includes both individual and group counseling sessions that help someone learn and practice positive drug-free thoughts and behaviors. Therapy may also include referrals to other medical/psychiatric, psychological and social services, including assistance with employment, housing and family services.
Signs of opioid and other substance use disorders
To treat a disease, one needs to know the signs of the disease. Being aware of the physical signs of addiction could help to get a person into treatment for the disease.
Signs of opioid and other substance use disorders include but are not limited to:
- Noticeable elation / euphoria
- Marked sedation / drowsiness
- Constricted pupils
- Slowed breathing
- Intermittent loss of consciousness
- Doctor shopping
- Shifting or dramatically changing moods
- Social withdrawal
- Sudden financial problems
- Criminal activity to obtain drugs
Another indicator that a person has an opioid use disorder or other substance use disorder is if a person exhibits withdrawal symptoms when opioids are discontinued.
Continued use of drugs and misuse of medications can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. And, after a while, people need to take higher doses just to avoid the physical withdrawal symptoms.
As a person escalates their doses, they face an increased risk of overdose. When a person takes a higher dose than their body and brain are able to manage, they may experience an overdose.
Many times an overdose can be life-threatening if medical treatment is not administered right away. Never wait to seek help – it could save someone’s life, including your own. You should seek professional medical help immediately if an overdose is suspected.
Growing up in a blue-collar household in Terre Haute, Indiana, Stacey’s childhood was bright. She was a straight-A student, a cheerleader and athlete who loved to read with dreams of becoming a lawyer or public relations professional. As she got older, her parents divorced and general feelings of teenage insecurity began to creep into her life. Stacey began dabbling in drug use recreationally in high school as a way to numb some of the emotions she was feeling. She successfully navigated her way through high school and college, fighting feelings of insecurity and self-doubt by self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
After college, she began a government career in which she excelled. One night she was drinking at a bar and by the end of the night was offered meth, “I never wanted to use meth because I was already aware of the effects it could have on me.” Despite knowing the effects, Stacey tried it and began using meth every day until the day of her arrest, “You can’t casually use meth.”
While in jail, she read as much as she could about addiction, treatment and recovery. Stacey began treatment at a facility upon her release, found a job and now works to help others who are fighting addiction. She chose to share her story to help break down stigmas and help people get into recovery, “Meth is an addiction that can take over anyone – and I was that person.”
Stacey has been living in recovery for eight years.
"Everybody has a different path that they're going to take to be successful in recovery. Only they are able to choose that path."
The hope of recovery
By acknowledging that addiction is a disease, the barriers to seeking and accessing treatment can be reduced.
Understanding that opioid use disorder is a disease leads to empathy for the person with the disease and will help to encourage people to seek and access treatment.
And with treatment comes the hope of recovery.
Hoosiers need to know that recovery is possible.
The first step to recovery is recognizing you need help.
To learn more about recovery visit https://www.samhsa.gov/recovery.
Alvina is a member of the Crow tribe and grew up on a reservation in Montana. Her substance use started when she was very young as a way to suppress her feelings of inadequacy. Despite the fact that she lived on a dry reservation, meaning no drugs or alcohol were permitted on the property, substances still found their way into weekend parties and events. She married and had her first child at age 17. For Alvina, drug use and domestic violence became a regular part of her marriage. To cope with her feelings, she began drinking heavily, taking pain pills and using cocaine – all eventually leading her to heroin.
After her second child was born, she got divorced and moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana, to be closer to her sisters. While she left some of her problems behind in Montana, the emptiness she felt remained, and she continued to try to fill it with drugs. Eventually, she was arrested. After her release, Alvina was able to remain sober for about two years until a prescription for painkillers led her back to heroin use.
“My whole life was consumed around by drugs – getting them, figuring out how to get them and using them.”
Eventually, exhausted by drug use and her situation, Alvina reached out to her dad. He told her he loved her and he just wanted her to get help. Alvina considers that moment life-changing, “When he said that, it sparked something in me. That’s where I found that hope. The hope for something different.” While it was not an easy process, over time, Alvina was able to cut drugs out of her life. She now works to help others and chose to share her story to shine a light on the realities of addiction and the hope of recovery.
Alvina has been living in recovery for three years.
"Recovery is hard, but it's worth it. You have to put work into it, but the work itself is well worth it."
Cody grew up in an environment conducive to drug use. His mother abused substances, and he had access to drugs at a young age. The only child in a single-parent household, he grew up poor but enjoyed playing sports and being outside with friends. His drug usage began casually at weekend parties but soon interrupted his regular activities. He quit his school’s track and basketball teams and began to isolate himself from others who weren’t using drugs.
At age 21, things took a serious turn when a misdiagnosis led to major surgery for Cody. After the surgery, he was prescribed painkillers and given a clean bill of health. Unfortunately, he became dependent on the painkillers. Once he could no longer get a prescription, he turned to heroin. In the span of a few months, everything changed for Cody. Eventually, he went to prison. There, he stopped using drugs and was able to remain sober for a few years after his release. But one night, he had a drink at a party, which led him back to drug use. He got treatment but wasn’t able to maintain a recovery lifestyle.
“I went to treatment. I detoxed and was feeling better, so I thought I was fine. I thought I had recovered. I left without any recovery supports and soon ended up back at treatment.”
Soon after, Cody was ready to make a commitment to his recovery. He not only received initial treatment for his addiction, but he learned tools and gained a community that would help him in the long term. Eager to share what he’s learned with others, Cody now helps counsel others who are working to fight their addiction. He wanted to share his story to show that recovery is possible and it can be fun and fulfilling.
Cody has been living in recovery for two years.
"Addiction is such an isolating disease. The opposite isn't recovery; it's connection. You stay in recovery through connection to others."
Share your story
Sharing stories is a way to connect with people and inspire others who may be struggling with opioid or another substance use disorder. When you share your recovery journey and how your recovery has impacted those around you, you show people they are not alone. Your story can also demonstrate that treatment works and recovery is possible.
Why should you share your story? Because it helps to reduce negative attitudes and stereotypes and may encourage others to seek help.
Deciding whether to share your recovery story publicly is a very personal decision, and you are the only person who can decide whether it is the right choice. Think about what might happen after sharing your story and weigh the pros and cons.