For every person battling a dependency on opioids, there are likely loved ones suffering in silence. All should be part of the treatment equation.

“Addiction is a family disease, and family education and therapy are critical for recovery,” explains Joseph Garbely, DO, the vice president of medical services and medical director of Caron Treatment Centers. “Treatment works best when it is structured to care for the health of the entire family system.”

Troubling statistics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them. Between eight and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.

“Treatment works best when it is structured to care for the health of the entire family system.”

“Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids,” says Dr. Garbely. “All facets of society are impacted, from criminal behavior to productivity in the workplace. We need to expand education, prevention, research and improved access to treatment.”

Understanding the problem

Opioid addiction is complex and chronic, affecting individuals from all walks of life. Each case is unique, with no room for stereotypes or judgments.

“Addiction is not a sign of weakness or a moral failing,” Garbely points out. “It’s critical we remove the stigma and shame associated with addiction because it often prevents people from asking for help and getting the treatment they so desperately need.”

No shortcuts

Garbely says medication-assisted treatment can provide patients with relief, but it's not a panacea. “Medication must be used as a supportive tool and managed by qualified health care professionals in collaboration with a patient’s treatment specialists, as part of a comprehensive therapeutic program.

“There's no silver-bullet solution, but we can continue to save tens of thousands from death and offer hope to millions of families across the country watching their loved ones struggle with this disease. To do this, we need to make the most successful solutions available to as many people as possible.”