Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. That means that more people die from taking too many drugs – whether it be illegal ones like heroin or legal ones like Oxycodone – than people who die in car accidents. That statistic is a hard example of what people are talking about when they talk about the opioid epidemic – the fact that the overdose rate is nearly four times higher than it was just 20 years ago, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
With that said, there are many differing views on addiction and whether it is a disease or a choice, and how to help people recover from it. With the epidemic in full force, it’s interesting to take a look at the connection between occupational therapy and addiction, and how it can be used to help people.
Perhaps you have a patient, or you know someone in your personal life, who has been prescribed pain medication for a long time. Of course, you’re concerned that they may be addicted to it. The first thing in determining if occupational therapy and addiction have a role in the person’s life is to figure out if they are using or abusing opioids. Yes, there is a difference. Some people are truly suffering from chronic pain. Under the right circumstances with proper monitoring, taking opioids can be safe.
When Opioids Become an Issue
It is when people start abusing opioids that it becomes an issue. For example, the American Society of Addiction Medicine found that four out of five heroin addicts say they started using heroin because they were prescribed pain medication and got addicted to it. Once their prescription ran out, or the pills were gone long before the next refill, they turned from using opioids to abusing them. That is an extreme example, but the difference between use and abuse is usually a very fine line…
Abuse is typically detected when the person is craving the drug, and they’re most likely using multiple types of drugs. Also, people abusing drugs such as opioids tend to change their behavioral patterns in order to accommodate their drug use, whether it be setting aside time to go use drugs or canceling plans because they are too much under the influence to follow through. It is the behavioral change that is most likely to occur with drug abuse that connects occupational therapy and addiction.
Occupational Therapy and Addiction: How it works
Occupational therapists can use their therapy training to help those with struggling with addiction to recognize their everyday routine and how their drug abuse is impacting it. Then, occupational therapists can help the person learn and practice new routines that don’t include that drug abuse. Occupational therapy and addiction are useful because not only can the occupational therapist help people with addiction to recognize that they may have lost themselves in a cycle of abuse, but the therapist can also then help the person to form new routines to replace drugs after the abuse stops. It’s very similar to the way occupational therapy is used to help inmates. As for drug abuse, occupational therapy and addiction are usually used simultaneously with other forms of addiction therapy and recovery programs.