Substance Use Navigators | Whittier, CA. | PIH Health

Substance Use Navigators

What services does a substance use navigator provide?

A substance use navigator assists patients who suffer from Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), as well as other substance related issues. The navigator works closely with nurses, physicians and social workers to change the culture around addiction. The substance use navigator’s goal is to put Patients First by providing compassionate, respectful and non-judgmental care to our patients that suffer from substance use disorders.

The substance use navigator will meet with patients who have any of the following:

  • OUD (Opioid Use Disorder): Hydrocodone, Norco, Percocet, Heroin, Fentanyl, etc.
  • SUD (Substance Use Disorder): Methamphetamines, PCP, Marijuana, Cocaine, etc.
  • AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder)

The substance use navigator will help PIH Health patients:

  • Access Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT)
  • Locate SUD treatment centers
  • Find MAT clinics
  • Learn more about substance abuse
  • Learn about reducing harm

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding MAT

What is the Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) Program?
The Medication for Addiction Treatment consist of the three FDA approved medications, buprenorphine (BUP), methadone, and naltrexone, which reduces relapse rates compared to treatment options without the use of medication.

Buprenorphine

Benefits:
● It is a well-studied medicine, and safe for long-term use.

● People who take buprenorphine are less likely to overdose or die than people who do not take it.

● It blocks cravings and prevents feeling “high” if you slip and use.

● It is more effective for chronic pain than methadone or naltrexone.

● It blocks withdrawal symptoms (unlike naltrexone or no medications).

● You can get to a comfortable dose in a couple of days (faster than with methadone).

● It does not produce a “high.”

● Most people get it from a primary care doctor who can provide up to one month of medicine at a time—no need to go every day or go to a special clinic.

● Some people prefer the counseling and support of a methadone clinic—many clinics now also offer buprenorphine at the window.

● Safely used by patients who have employee health screens or on parole.

● It is covered by most health insurance programs.

Cautions:
● Side effects are rare AND less severe and less frequent than other opioids. All opioids can cause trouble sleeping, nausea, headaches, or overdose if mixed with other drugs.

● Some AA/NA groups, treatment programs, and police/judges may not support this.

● Usually, you should be in some withdrawal before you take the first dose.

● Stopping buprenorphine often is done slowly and with support of medical team.

Methadone

Benefits:
● It is a well-studied medicine that is safe for long-term use.

● People who take methadone are less likely to overdose or to die than people who do not take it.

● It blocks cravings and prevents feeling “high” if you slip and use.

● It helps with chronic pain, but less than buprenorphine.

● It blocks withdrawal symptoms (unlike naltrexone or no medications) and may take longer to get to a comfortable dose than buprenorphine.

● It does not produce a “high” if taken at the right dose.

● Methadone users are less likely than those who don’t take it to relapse, get HIV, or go to prison.

● Methadone clinics offer counseling and case management support.

● You do not need to go into withdrawal before starting it.

● It is covered by most health insurance programs.

Cautions:
● Side effects may include sleepiness (if dose is too high), constipation, or dangerous heart rhythms—these can be prevented by working with your medical team.

● If you take too much or mix with other drugs, you can overdose.

● It can only be taken by going to a methadone clinic frequently.

● Stopping methadone must be done slowly and with support of medical team.

Naltexon (Vivitrol)

Benefits:
● It blocks opioid and alcohol cravings and stops you from feeling high if you use opioids.

● You only need to get the shot once a month.

● It is not an opioid and does not cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it.

● Even though studies show buprenorphine and methadone are as helpful, some AA/NA groups, treatment programs, and police/judges may prefer naltrexone.

Cautions:
● You are more likely to relapse and overdose in comparison to results from buprenorphine or methadone.

● Upon the first injection, if you have opioids in your system you will likely go into withdrawal. You must go through detox first and not use for 1-2 weeks.

● It can be very hard to start. Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, it does not help with withdrawal symptoms and can cause withdrawal for up to 2 weeks if taken too soon.

● It does not help with chronic pain.

● It can be expensive and hard to get; many insurance plans do not pay or only cover it after a long process.

● Your tolerance goes down when you don’t take any opioid medicine. That means if you return to using, you may have a bigger risk of dying than if you took methadone or buprenorphine.

● If you need emergency surgery or have sudden bad pain, opioids will not work well.

No Medication

Benefits:
● Some patients prefer to be off all medicines, even when there is a higher risk of relapse and overdose.

● Medication side effects are avoided. The side effect of no medication is increased risk of relapse and overdose death.

Cautions:
● You are much more likely to relapse, overdose, and die in comparison to results from buprenorphine or methadone.

● Cravings and withdrawal are not controlled when you are not taking medicines, and if you slip and use it can be much harder to stop.

● Your tolerance goes down when you don’t take any opioid medicine. That means if you return to using, you have a bigger risk of dying than if you took methadone or buprenorphine.

● Because of increased risk of overdose death without medication, you should have naloxone rescue kit at home for your safety.

Resource: Materials provided through CA Bridge may be utilized for the sole purpose of providing substance use disorder information. Such materials may be distributed with proper attribution from the California Department of Health Care Services, Public Health Institute, CA Bridge Program. More resources available www. CABridge.org

Do you need medication to treat withdrawals or reduce cravings from opioids addiction?
An emergency department physician can prescribe, as part of the treatment, any of the three FDA approved medications, buprenorphine (BUP), methadone, and naltrexone to help with withdrawals and to help reduce relapse rates. Without the use of medication, patients may be at risk of relapse or an overdose.

Is treatment with buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone safe in pregnancy?
Buprenorphine and methadone are safe and effective to use in pregnancy and can be part of the standard of care for pregnant people with opioid use disorders. Naltrexone is not recommended during pregnancy.

Where can I get the treatment medication?
PIH Health has pharmacies in Los Angeles, Santa Fe Springs and Whittier that offer treatment medications. See pharmacy hours for each location.

There are also pharmacies in our local area that are open 24 hours if needed.

Are there any Buprenorphine clinics that accept Medi-Cal for insurance coverage?
Here is a list of Buprenorphine clinics that accept Medi-Cal (as of Nov. 2021).

How can I get help?
We definitely can help! Ask our staff for treatment or request to talk to our Substance Use Navigator.

Substance Use Navigator
Phone: 562.698.0811 Ext. 17673