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What is a Clinician’s Role in Opiate detox and Treatment?

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

Are clinicians helping or hurting the opiate epidemic? Determining a clinician’s role at opiate detox centers.

If our patient came into your clinic or ER withdrawing from opiates or requesting opiate detox, what would your response be? Would you treat them with the same level of care as your other patients suffering from diabetes and asthma? Would you just treat their symptoms and send them on their ways? Is it even your choice?

As a clinician, what, if any, is your role in the growing opiate epidemic?  Is it to help treat a few of our patient’s symptoms? Is it to help them find pathways to treatment for their underlying addiction? Or is it that you simply treat them, but hope they find their own way to recovery?

In today’s healthcare system, we are seeing an increase in patients requesting opiate detox and treatment, but unfortunately, many patients are going untreated due to financial and/or policy restraints.  Depending on the state in which you work, your ability to help an addict requesting opiate detox may vary greatly, but the needs of patients are just the same – comprehensive care in a safe environment with extensive support to treat their underlying addiction.

A Case-by-Case Approach

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), opiate detox centers determine our patient’s need for opiate detox by assessing the following:

  • Current intoxication level and predicted withdrawal severity
  • Health and medical problems
  • Co-presence of emotional, behavioral or cognitive complications
  • Readiness to change
  • Relapse history and ability to maintain abstinence
  • Our patient’s living situation

The number of opiate overdoses and deaths is increasing daily. Thus, we must ask whether our policies and procedures in emergency settings are contributing or remediating the current epidemic. Consequently, a general lack of high quality, affordable treatment options leaves many in need without access to adequate care.  If patients come to our opiate detox centers requesting help with opiate detox, why would we think twice about connecting them with help? Why would we turn someone away until he/she has overdosed and/or died?

If Not Us, Then Who?

If our policies and procedures create barriers to connecting with effective opiate detox and treatment, those struggling with opiate addiction may end up not seeking treatment or seeking treatments that may be dangerous and/or ineffective.

Due to the ubiquity of the internet, many websites and forums have popped up with information on opiate detox.  While many websites are reputable, other sites have emerged with advice and information with little to no quality control.  As a result, people seeking information on treatment who have been denied access to opiate detox in the past are being told not to try through the system and to detox with home remedies made up of over-the-counter medications and/or marijuana.

If we are to truly combat the growing opiate epidemic, is this how we do it?  Or should comprehensive treatment solutions be made available upon emergency visits to a hospital?

RCA is deeply committed to advocating for the rights of patients with substance use disorders, helping to educate our society, and reducing the stigma surrounding addiction.  Therefore, RCA hopes to make the process of facing addiction and seeking effective treatment easier for people throughout the nation with our opiate detox centers.

If you have our patient in need of help with treatment solutions, contact Lighthouse for more information.  You can call us at any time at 1-800-RECOVERY.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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