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The Role of Telehealth in Fighting Opioid Abuse

Telehealthchronic diseaseaddictiondrugsopioid epidemicHealth & WellnessIndustry News • 3 min read • May 21, 2018 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith

The opioid crisis has taken center stage in the U.S. – in national politics, in local government, and in neighborhoods across the country. Today, more than two million Americans have become dependent on or abused prescription pain pills and street drugs. The CDC reports that in 2016, there were more than 63,600 overdose deaths in the U.S. – more than three times the rate than in 1999.

Nationwide, leaders and organizations are leading the fight against opioid abuse. Efforts to curtail opioid over-prescription are already showing promise, and some medications are highly effective in treating people who have developed an addiction. However, beyond helping people in an acute state of drug abuse, we must also identify and treat the underlying causes.

The risk of relapse

Detox is the first step in breaking the habit, but it’s just one step on the long road to recovery. Even after physical dependence has resolved, addicts are at high risk for relapse for months or even years afterward. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the relapse rate for substance abusers, in general, is between 40 and 60 percent; the incidence among opioid addicts is even higher, with one study reporting that as many as 91 percent of those in recovery will experience a relapse. NIDA also reports that stress cues linked to the drug experience (such as people, places, things, and moods) and exposure to drugs are the most common triggers for relapse. This is true even among people who began using opioids for pain resulting from an accident or injury – and accidentally became addicted. They don’t fit the “drug addict” stereotype, but they’re at risk for relapse just the same.

The role of therapy

Since addiction is considered a chronic disease, most people need long-term, ongoing support to fully recover. Through therapy, individuals can receive the necessary support, education, coping skills and connections to resources that will improve their odds for success and their overall quality of life. Behavioral health therapists help their patients manage cravings, avoid or recover from relapse, and identify the root causes of their drug abuse. Therapy can help individuals deal with personal, environmental, as well as other factors that impact their current addiction(s) or that can increase the likelihood that they will develop other addictions.

In fact, individuals show a greater predisposition for developing addictions when they experience crises, traumas, other mental health issues, or have a family history of drug use. This is especially true if they have limited access to resources or support networks. Evidence-based behavioral therapy is a proven method for treating substance use disorders as well as co-occurring mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

While counseling for addiction can often be a lengthy proposition, it’s a necessary step toward a healthier and happier life. Many recovering addicts report that they’re never entirely healed – it’s a lifelong effort to remain drug-free. However, most people get better at coping with the causes of their addiction and the stressors of life over time. Their need for frequent in-person sessions may decrease as a result of their improved ability to manage their addictions. Wherever they may be in the recovery process, the journey doesn’t have to be traveled alone.

MeMD’s behavioral health services

Behavioral health services through telehealth can serve as an invaluable resource and treatment option during the recovery process.

At MeMD, our therapists address a specific need for ongoing treatment among recovering addicts. We offer quick and simple access to a wide network of high-quality therapists across the country. Virtual visits through MeMD give people a simple, convenient option for treatment in the privacy of their own homes – and an opportunity to check in, stay accountable, and seek help if they feel like they’re slipping.

Appointments can be scheduled in just 48 hours, which makes MeMD an ideal solution for people at risk for relapse as well as those seeking long-term support. Moreover, they can work with the same therapist throughout the recovery process to build trust and ensure continuity of care. All of MeMD’s providers are licensed and meet rigorous credentialing criteria, meaning they deliver highly effective treatment for drug addiction and a host of other mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, alcoholism and relationship problems.

For more information about behavioral health services through MeMD, visit

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Kat Smith