Drug Addiction Epidemic Best Curbed By Peer Recovery Specialists? How Shared Experiences Help

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald October 25, 02:56 am
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Peer recovery programs introduce peer recovery coaches or specialists to drug overdose patients while they're still in emergency rooms and maintain contact with them after they get discharged. Patients develop a bond and trust these coaches because they share the same experiences.
(Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Drug abuse and recovery is a long and tenuous road. Addiction can be treated but many drug abusers have the tendency to relapse and lose their hard-earned progress. Peer recovery treatments, however, are gaining traction for its successful results in some drug addicts.

Peer recovery treatment, which is still considered by many people as new, introduces peer recovery coaches or specialists to drug overdose patients while they're still in emergency rooms. Patients develop a bond and trust these coaches because they share the same experiences, CNN reported.

Peer recovery coaches maintain contact with drug overdose patients after they get discharged from hospitals. Once out, peer recovery coaches provide regular meetings that "help navigate the path toward sobriety and resolve issues such as housing, food stamp applications, court obligations or job searches," CNN further reported.

Peer recovery treatment for people with drug addiction has been praised by policymakers in Rhode Island and in other states. The program has a bright future when it comes to curbing the escalating opioid epidemic in the United States.

From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people in the U.S. have died due to overdoses from prescription opioids, which include hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine (Avinza), codeine and oxycodone (Percocet), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) listed. In 2014, more than 14,000 individuals died from overdoses from prescription opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prescription opioid overdose rates were highest among people with ages between 25 and 54. In 2014, nearly two million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.

Dustin French, 29, was considered dead on arrival at a hospital during his last heroin overdose in April. Now, French is 100 days clean and attributes his progress to a peer recovery specialist, who also struggled with drug addiction in the past. French said that his peer recovery coach was by side "when nobody else was," adding that the program saved his life, CNN continued.

Aside from Rhode Island, other states such as New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Delaware are also trying to figure out how to place and pay peer coaches in their hospital ERs. However, several challenges should be considered. 

Challenges lay ahead for states that want to enact the peer recovery program. Their governments must get more insurance plans to cover the program, come up with payment structures, certifying and training peer recovery coaches and finding absolute evidence that the specialists help drug addicts toward recovery.

Do you think peer recovery coaches can help curb America's drug epidemic? Share your thoughts below.

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