Recovering from Opioid Use Disorder (SUD) is more than a person discontinuing drug use. More often than not, SUD affects many aspects, if not all, of a person’s life. As a result, recovery is a long process that only begins with treating the disease. Treating the whole person; physically, emotionally and practically sets up the patient for the best possible outcomes.
“I compare treating SUD to diabetes,” explains Courtney Potempa, Physician Assistant at Symetria Recovery. “We give them insulin to help control the immediate problem, but also encourage eating right, exercise, and losing weight as the long-term care. In SUD, we often use medications to treat the withdrawal and cravings, but counseling, therapy, and group work are the lifetime care. There’s always a reason why people turn to substances. Just taking away the substance and giving them medication doesn’t cure the entire problem. You have to treat the whole patient.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends four key areas that support a life in recovery:
- overcoming or managing one’s disease or symptoms
- making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being
”I encourage our patients to follow up with or find a primary care doctor,” Potempa said. “Specifically, for women, I try to help them take care of their sexual and reproductive health. Those tend to go by the wayside when they are actively using. Also, exercise and diet are so important for the brain and body to heal. If patients have an underlying pain disorder or injury, I help them get to an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist to address the cause of that problem.”
- Having a stable and safe place to live
- Having open, constructive communication through family counseling
“We always encourage patients to involve as much of their family and friends as they feel comfortable doing,” Potempa added. “Let’s get your family involved in your recovery so when you are at home, it’s a safe and supportive place, where you’re following through with all of the work you are doing in clinic.”
- Conducting meaningful daily activities and having the independence, income and resources to participate in society
“Often, when patients get into the rhythm of working, family time, etcetera, life seems a little boring. But, boring is good because the chaos of substance us abuse is draining and exhausting,” Potempa said. “They then find joy in getting up in the morning and getting their kids off to school, working out, or simply sitting with coffee. The mundane aspects of life become enjoyable.”
- Having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.
“Community is huge!” Potempa exclaimed. “We encourage our patients to find a groups such as Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Support Groups in or outside of Symetria, as well as AA, NA, Recovery Dharma and others. They are an extension of their recovery community. Keep building, because the bigger your sober, supportive community is, the stronger your recovery is going to be.”
There are many different ways to administer whole person care. Because every patient is living under different circumstances, addiction and substance use recovery or rehab services and supports need to be flexible. A comprehensive care team at a singular treatment location is best equipped to design a plan to meet most, if not all, of a patient’s needs for full recovery. This is the basis for the pioneering Symetria Method.
“Treatment is tailored to the way your body and brain need it,” Potempa said “from how often you have counseling, to what kind and dose of medications you are on, or how quickly you taper off of your medication.”