The Missouri Legislature’s Task Force on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment is holding monthly meetings to brainstorm ways to fight drug abuse. It is continuing its work from last year to help Missourians battling addiction.

Dr. Angeline Stanislaus, with the Missouri Department of Mental Health, led a presentation about how substance use affects a person’s brain. She told lawmakers that repeated use of a substance could cause withdrawal, craving, and loss of control.

“In order to get a certain buzz level of mental state that you’re looking for, a buzz or a euphoric state you’re looking for, you may initially take even one glass of wine may have done it, or two glasses of wine might have done it, but over a period of time, if you use it on a daily basis or several times a week, the two glasses of wine is not giving you the buzz,” she said. “It’s going to be three. It may be four, it may take five.”

Stanislaus said that this same pattern of use appears with someone using opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and hard drugs.

She explained that abuse and neglect play a big part in substance abuse.

“The most common form of abuse is neglected children,” she said. “They just are born, and they don’t get the touch because touch is so important. The nourishing nurturing nature of an adult to a child is so important for the child when the child is born. They are not touched; they are not given the right amount of stimulation.”

She said that modern medicine has learned that a person’s body is still altered, even coming out of a rehab or treatment center for substance use, which is why she points to medication-assisted treatment as a way to address opioid use disorder.

“It has to be a very small gradual process and the journey’s very different for different people,” Dr. Stanislaus said. “If half a milligram of buprenorphine is what they need or a milligram of buprenorphine is what they need in order to not return to the substance say ten years later, I think it’s a win.”

The FDA identifies medication-assisted treatment as a mixture of using medicines with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat opioid use disorders. Because of the chronic nature of using opioids, medical providers periodically reevaluate if the treatment is working. Some patients may continue treatment for the rest of their lives.

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