FAQ: Opioid and Substance Use Treatment Information

How do we get more people with substance use disorders into treatment?

We can do better at identifying substance use problems. We now perform screenings as part of routine primary care, and we encourage family members and caregivers to stay alert for signs of substance abuse.

Are there different types of treatment for opioid use disorder?

Yes. There are several treatments for opioid use disorder. In general, the best strategies involve medication (for example – Buprenorphine/’Suboxone’ or Methadone) and counseling. CHA offers these treatments in a variety of settings, to help meet the needs of different people. If you are interested in starting treatment, call 617-591-6051.

Methadone Treatment is available at North Charles Institute for Addictions located at CHA Cambridge Hospital (617-661-5700).

How does someone get a prescription for ‘Suboxone’?

Suboxone is the brand name for Buprenorphine, an opioid dependence medicine. Suboxone is an opioid, but with less abuse potential than others. It can help with cravings and help stop withdrawal symptoms. If you would like to be treated at CHA, call 617-591-6051.

Are people on medication assisted treatment (e.g. Suboxone) in recovery? Do you have to take the medication forever? Will treatment like Suboxone interfere with my job?

‘Recovery’ is a term we use to describe people who have been in treatment with good effect, and have been able to stop using their drug of choice and resume normal productive life activities (for example – child care, having a job, maintaining family and friend relationships).

It is a long-term goal, not one that is typically achieved in a matter of days or weeks. People on medication assisted treatment are considered to be in recovery if they are achieving these milestones.

Opioid use disorder is a chronic disease. We know that people usually do best if they take medication for a long time. The risk of relapse goes up if people stop taking the medication.

The length of time on medication is different for different people. Some people may be on medication for years with good effects, and some may need medication for less time.

Side effects of Suboxone may include sedation, constipation, and dizziness (similar to opioids). However, despite these side effects, suboxone often helps people overcome withdrawal symptoms and lets them function better.

Suboxone can appear on pre-treatment drug screens but should not interfere with employment if accompanied by a letter from a health care provider responsible for addiction treatment.

How effective is drug addiction treatment?

Drug addiction treatment can be very effective in helping people with addiction to stop abusing drugs and return to functional roles in family, work or school. One study on treatment for opioid addiction found that about 60% of participants no longer showed addictive behavior after completing the program (American Journal of Psychiatry 173.1). Treatment can take years and relapses can occur, but with continued treatment, close monitoring and good support many are able to overcome addiction.

  • Do people get better? Is there full recovery?
    People do get better and there is full recovery. However recovery is lifelong and those with a history of addiction require closer monitoring when taking potentially addictive substances.

How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?

There is no set length of time for drug addiction treatment. People respond to treatment at different rates.

What helps people stay in treatment?

People need to be motivated to change. That helps people stay in treatment long enough to benefit. Strong social support from family and friends is also helpful. Some patients stay in treatment because of pressure from the court system.

A major reason for treatment failure is family pressure or judgment about Suboxone-assisted treatment being “real recovery”.

If you have questions about why your family member is on Suboxone, ask them if you can speak with their prescriber. But please don’t make them feel bad for seeking out evidence-based, proven treatment.

What can caregivers do to take care of people in early recovery?

Early recovery is a difficult time. People in early recovery need to learn new behaviors and patterns to avoid triggers for drug use and develop new ways to cope with stress.

It is best if caregivers can be understanding of these difficulties, and not place excessive demands and expectations on the recovering addict.

Caregivers can help people in early recovery by offering to take them to treatment appointments or meetings, or keep them busy in settings where they will not have triggers for drug use.

Caregivers should also watch for signs of relapse, which can be especially dangerous when drug tolerance is lost over time. Some people who are struggling with taking their medication daily can benefit from a sober relative, whom they have a good relationship with, holding their medication and supervise them taking it daily.

Where can family members go for information on treatment options?

Concerned family members can ask a CHA healthcare provider about treatment options. There are also many online resources that can help:

Massachusetts Organization for Recovery: Resources for Recovery has a list of resources for caregivers as well as patients. DPH hotline number 1-800-327-3480

Can a person become addicted to medications prescribed by a doctor?

Yes, it is possible to become addicted to drugs prescribed by a doctor. This is why it is very important to take medications, particularly opioids, only as prescribed, only for pain relief, and only for as long as prescribed. It is important to also be honest with health-care providers so they can help you most effectively.

Where do 12-step or self-help programs (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous) fit into drug addiction treatment?

Self-help programs, including 12-step programs, can go together well with professional treatment. They can also be helpful for people that have already completed a treatment program and could use extra support during their recovery.

Every Thursday from 6:30 - 7:30 pm there is a “Fresh Start” Alcohol and Drug Recovery group, an anonymous alcohol and drug recovery peer support group at the CHA Revere Care Center, 1st Floor. This is open to the public.

Cocaine anonymous meetings are held Friday 7 - 8:30 pm at CHA Cambridge Hospital, Macht Building, 2nd Floor Auditorium, 1493 Cambridge Street.

Cambridge Health Alliance refers caregivers, relatives and friends to local support groups such as “Learn to Cope” which meets on Mondays from 7 - 8:30 pm at the Spaulding Hospital Cullinane Center. Here are some other resources:

How do I know what treatment options are available? What resources are available for drug addiction treatment? Are they free or covered by insurance?

You can find out about available treatment options by speaking with your health care provider. Many resources are free or fully covered by insurance; in the event that a treatment is not covered or you do not have insurance, payment support is often available.

Where can I find a provider who speaks another language?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration offers a national helpline that is confidential, operates 24 hours a day and offers services in both English and Spanish. Also, many health centers, including CHA, have bilingual health care providers and will also be able to help with translation services if needed. AA and NA also offer non-English support groups in many locations. The DPH hotline phone number offers local resources and can be contacted by calling 1-800-720-3480. TTY: Use MassRelay at 711 or 1-800-720-3480.

What prescription monitoring program does CHA participate in?

CHA is part of the Massachusetts Prescription Monitoring Program. This is required by the state of Massachusetts. This lets doctor and other staff members see if a person is getting multiple prescriptions for opioids or other controlled substances (e.g. benzodiazepines, stimulants), which may indicate that the person is addicted.

    Please Note

  • This web page provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided here, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care.

    You should not use the information in place of a visit, call, consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.