We need to end stigma surrounding medication for opioid use disorder recovery, sud treatment, abstinence, mental health, mat, compassion, empathy, supporting people in recovery
Prior to September 2019, I had very little knowledge regarding medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD). What I did know, was based on my experience watching my sister go to her general practitioner for Suboxone even while she continued to struggle with illicit drug use and instability in her home life. I found it very discouraging to see her overly medicated and not making any truly positive changes in her life.
It is unfortunate that many thoughts and opinions which cause stigma are based on situations like what I experienced. We form opinions and biases on personal experiences without proper knowledge or education.
I was astounded when I heard the effect medications are having on opioid use disorder. Individuals that are combining prescription medication and therapy had a 75% increase in retention in recovery at the end of three months. What this means is that 75/100 people who use both medication and therapy are still in recovery at the end of three months.
These results showed me the positive effect these medications were causing. People who had been living desperate, hopeless lives completely contingent on when or how they were getting their drug of choice were now feeling well and able to participate fully in recovery.
On a daily basis, I am appalled that MAT programs, specifically medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) along with the people participating in them are still experiencing stigma from so many places. This stigma comes from pharmacists who are just a little less respectful or less caring to the client picking up a prescription for MOUD or the local 12-step self-help meetings where the clients are often told: “They are not in recovery if they are taking certain medications.” How horrible it must feel for someone who has finally reached their 90-day mark, to be told that they aren’t really in recovery due to their prescribed medication.
The truth is that many people have been given a brand new opportunity to live life again because of the combination of medication and therapy. They are no longer committing crimes to support their drug use, and no longer losing family and friends, housing, and employment. They are now able to care for their children, accept responsibility for themselves and their actions, obtain employment, obtain housing, and live a fulfilling life.
MAT is a long-term life-giving treatment option for so many people. My hope is that knowledge and education on a more public platform will help end the stigma so many people in recovery from opioid use disorder are still experiencing. With 80,000 Americans dying each year from opioid overdose, we need to be supporting all programs and resources that are helping people in recovery.