Over the course of more than a decade, medical guidelines regarding chronic pain combined
with patient expectations have led to a dramatic increase in the number of opioids
prescribed to treat pain in this country. Today, Americans make up 4.6 percent of the world’s population but consume 80 percent of the global opioid supply, including 99 percent of the hydrocodone.1-3
Elevated access to prescription opioids has resulted in a dramatic increase in opioid addiction and deaths by overdose. And for many, the path from medicine bottle to heroin needle is swift. Users find that, as their prescription supplies dry up and their doctor-shopping options run out, heroin becomes the cheaper and more available alternative.

Hazelden facilities have seen a growing number of patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction. At our largest campus in Center City, Minnesota, for example, adults seeking treatment for opioid addiction rose from 19 percent of patients in 2001 to 30 percent in 2011. A more dramatic jump was seen at Hazelden’s facility for adolescents and young adults in Plymouth, Minnesota–from 15 percent of patients in 2001 to 50 percent in 2012.

The impact on young people is especially troubling. Because our brains are not fully developed until our mid-20s, early exposure to opioids can cause permanent neurological changes and behavioral consequences.

To give our patients the best chance of long-term recovery from opioid addiction, Hazelden has enhanced its treatment programming to include new pathways for those with opioid dependence. The programming includes alterations to traditional group therapy and lectures. It also includes the option of extended, adjunctive medication assisted treatment as a means to bring people to a stable, Twelve Step-based recovery lifestyle and ultimately abstinence from opioids.

The aim is to engage patients for a long enough period of time to allow them to complete treatment, acquire new information, establish new relationships, and become solidly involved in recovery. The goal is always abstinence.