Nalexone (Narcan) has been hailed by law enforcement officials and addiction care specialists as a valuable resource in helping reverse the effects of near-fatal opiate overdoses. Introduced into the public consciousness last year when police officers and community groups in various states started carrying it for overdose response calls, Nalexone has indeed saved the lives of numerous overdose victims who would have stopped breathing altogether had it not been for the drug’s intervention. What happens, however, after the victim wakes up? A recent article outlines the post-overdose obstacles that victims face as they endeavor to manage their opiate addiction and enter recovery[1].

The Struggle for Many to Get Treatment

The piece describes that initial moment of clarity that overdose survivors experience when they first wake up, as well as their next-day struggles to manage their cravings and abstain from further use. It also describes the logistical obstacles that many face in their pursuit of treatment. For example, officials in Ocean County, NJ, where according to data from law enforcement opiate-related fatalities have more than doubled since 2013[2], report that overdose victims are rarely tracked. They are simply given a list of addiction care programs upon discharge, of which they rarely take advantage.

Assessing Obstacles to Opiate Addiction Treatment

Before addressing New Jersey’s treatment access problem, it’s helpful to look at what’s going on in the rest of the country. It is an unfortunate reality that often the biggest obstacle to getting treatment is the patient that needs it. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 23 million needed treatment for substance abuse in 2013 but only 2.5 million actually received it[3]. While there are certainly institutional and economic roadblocks in place that can often delay the treatment process, the reluctance of patients to treatment on their own cannot be overlooked when discussing this issue.

Common Self-Imposed Roadblocks

The nature of chemical dependency is that it renders the system reliant on a constant and continued supply of drugs and/or alcohol to feel normal and satisfied. This cycle often causes the patient to fear withdrawal above anything else even death. Many addicts also suffer from the denial that they even have a problem to begin with and getting them to enter treatment can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Other external factors that can impede recovery include lack of financial means and a weak family support structure. According to Mayo Clinic, lack of family involvement is one of the leading risk factors for the development and continuation for addiction.[4] Without the support, not to mention the checks-and-balances system of a loving family, patients are exponentially more likely to relapse. It’s important to choose a treatment facility that can effectively incorporate family involvement into their care services so patients’ loved ones can learn about the biological disease of addiction as well as their role in the recovery process, while their family member is still in treatment.

Insurance: The Vital Role Companies Can Play

Increased access by insurance companies can make a significant impact on deciding who gets treatment and who doesn’t. According to the 2010 United States Census, 84 percent of Americans are covered by health insurance[5]. While most are covered, many are still finding a hard time accessing care. In the meantime, however, there are organizations that work hard to pair suffering addicts and their loved ones with effective treatment resources. The good news is that the addiction care landscape is becoming more refined and intuitive every day, and experts are working hard to address each patient’s individual care needs.

While reviving from an overdose is an important first step in facilitating their road to recovery, it’s by no means the last. Once an addict is given that second chance it is incumbent upon them, their loved ones and their care provider to see that they make the most of it and work toward lasting sobriety.

The National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Center is committed to helping individuals find quality chemical dependency treatment for their loved ones. Don’t wait another second watching your loved one succumb to drug or alcohol abuse. Call one of our representatives today so we can help you start the healing process.