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A&R Solutions – Offering Hope for Opioid Addiction
By Kevin Brown


Much has been written about the opioid crisis in the United States and with good reason. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017. Of these, 47,600 involved opioids with more than 130 people dying every day from opioid overdose, according to NIDA. It is rightly considered a national health crisis and an epidemic.

While the debate continues over the causes of the opioid crisis, one local organization is working to do something about it. A&R Solutions (A&R stands for Addiction and Recovery) operates five outpatient addiction treatment and recovery centers in western Pennsylvania. With more than 15 years of experience, A&R Solutions focuses on providing individualized, medication-assisted treatment for opioid and heroin addiction.

Opioids are drugs that are derived from opium, which is a naturally-occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the opium poppy. Opioids include morphine and codeine along with heroin. With the exception of heroin, which is illegal in the U.S., opioids are prescribed by physicians to relieve pain. Among the more common prescription medications in pill form are oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percodan®) and hydrocodone (Vicodin®). Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is typically used to treat patients with severe pain after surgery, among other medical uses.

When taken as prescribed, opioids are effective in relieving pain, however, the feeling of euphoria produced by opioids can lead to overuse and result in opioid dependency or addiction. If opioids are mixed with substances such as alcohol or heroin, overdose leading to death can occur quickly. Opioids that are illegally obtained “on the street” may have unknown quantities and unknown purity or may be mixed with other substances, producing serious complications including fatal overdose.

Anyone taking an opioid medication is at risk for becoming addicted due to the high potential of drug dependency among these medications. There is also a genetic factor in drug addiction so if you have a parent who is or was opioid-addicted, you could be at risk for opioid addiction.

Medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction is usually accomplished with the administration of Suboxone, which is a combination of two medications: buprenorphine and Naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid used as an opioid replacement therapy to ease the physical withdrawal symptoms that are common with opioid addiction. Naloxone reverses the toxic effects of the opioids and can also be used alone for emergency treatment of opioid overdose. It is widely available in a nasal spray (Narcan®) for use by first responders and individuals to assist someone experiencing a life-threatening overdose.

When patients visit an A&R Solutions center for the first time, they complete a questionnaire to gather information about their medical condition as well as their history of drug use. They are examined by a physician and have their pulse and blood pressure recorded. The patients also receive a urine drug test to determine conclusively that they have been taking opioids.

After a diagnosis of opioid addiction is made by the physician, an individualized treatment plan is developed for each patient. Typically, the patient receives a prescription for Suboxone along with instructions on how to take it according to the prescription. In addition, the patient is advised to seek counseling and attend meetings of Narcotics Anonymous for support in ending opioid dependency and maintaining sobriety.

A&R Solutions’ outpatient centers are located in Pittsburgh (North Side) Greensburg, Kittanning, Punxsutawney, and Carmichaels. For more information, visit www.aandrsolutions.com or call
1-800-817-4053.



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