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Addiction Care Strategies Shift as Drug-Related Death Rates Rise

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Last week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention connected shortening life expectancies in the United States with increasing rates of death by drug overdose. Regional healthcare providers continue to develop innovative treatment methods for addiction in the face of the opioid crisis. It marks progress in a field that has only recently recognized addiction as a disease. 

Dr. Marvin Seppala is a nationally-recognized expert on the opioid crisis. Days before the CDC released its reports, he presented at the Sixth Annual Avera and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Symposium in Sioux Falls. Along with the foundation, he’s developed the Comprehensive Opioid Response with the Twelve Steps program. It’s a method that combines more traditional addiction treatment with medication that combats the effects of opioids in the body.

Dr. Seppala says there was some initial backlash from some in the healthcare field when medication was introduced to addiction treatment. But he notes that research on addiction through brain science has only developed within the last 30 years. On SDPB’s In the Moment program, he explains that research is showing addiction is a very complex disease.

“And by complex [I mean] it has biological, psychological, social and even spiritual manifestations. Behaviorally and in brain function. And if that’s the case, we can’t just have a simple solution,” he says.

While intensive short-term treatment is proving to be effective, following up with patients can improve long-term results. Dr. Matthew Stanley with Avera Behavioral Health says follow-up typically takes the form of local AA meetings and creating peer support groups. He says just getting to meetings can be a struggle in the winter months, but there are other drawbacks for those in rural areas.

“One of the key components of AA of course is anonymity. I’ve talked to many people that are trying to work through their recovery and they’re uncomfortable when virtually everybody in the town knows who you are and everything about you and your family," he explains.

Dr. Stanley says Avera hopes to develop a 12-month post-treatment program for their addiction care patients. Those who receive treatment can stay connected with their provider and fellow patients in their cohort through the initial stages of recovery.

Avera is constructing a new addiction care center on the corner of 69th Street and Louise Avenue in Sioux Falls. That facility is expected to be complete by November of 2019.