For those who truly love us, nothing is more valuable than for us to be healthy, happy and safe. Addiction steals that away, straining the relationships that matter the most to us.

Opiate addiction is overwhelming. With this addiction comes endless worrying, financial drain, fear of legal issues, and the very real concern of overdose and death.

The majority of these addictions started out with legal prescriptions. This addiction is an epidemic. Last year alone, more Americans died from drug overdoses than in the entire Vietnam War.

This disease does not discriminate. It hits families of all socio-economic classes. Hard working, responsible people with good judgement and self-control have found themselves bound by a condition that temporarily hijacks the decision making ability of the brain, and prompts them to act against their sense of long-term values and judgement.

Actual physical and chemical changes take place in the brain. During this time, the part of the brain that is responsible for emotional regulation begins to shut down and basic mood functioning becomes dependent on the up and down rollercoaster of short-acting opiates.

Sufferers find themselves trapped. Family and loved ones have difficulty understanding. Though well meaning, they often do more harm by enabling or shaming.

People struggling with this are confused and self-loathing, and internalized guilt allows this disease to further tighten its grip, leaving sufferers feeling hopeless and lost.

Patients and families need a real reason to believe that things can and will get better. While abstinence-only programs, detoxes and costly in-patient treatments might help some, these treatments alone do not work for the majority of those suffering from opioid use disorder.

When combined with medically assisted treatment, these treatments can be highly beneficial elements to long-term recovery, but when used as a stand-alone treatment for opiate addiction, they can actually increase the risk of relapse and fatal overdose.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. Evidence based and scientifically proven, MAT is recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Surgeon General and the Presidents Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. It provides the most positive outcomes for the majority of those seeking help for opiate use disorder.

One hundred and forty-two people die each day from this heartbreaking disease. It’s time to show compassion, support and understanding for what has been overwhelmingly proven to work.

Matt Burch, CAC I is director and clinical counselor of Recovery Concepts.