Neuropsychological Testing for Opioid Use Disorder



As research has shown, substance use disorder can significantly change people physically, mentally, and emotionally. The more we learn about the disease of addiction, the more we recognize that some form of neurological testing may play a critical role in treating and potentially preventing substance use disorder. The designation of addiction as a chronic illness has helped scientists understand just how much the brain changes when substance use disorder is present, making neuropsychological testing a natural next step in patients' treatment process.


What is Neuropsychological Testing?


Cognitive brain function and substance use disorder have a complex relationship in which a patient's cognitive abilities can significantly impact their treatment and recovery process. These tests can also help create more personalized and intensive treatment plans, making it easier for medical providers to treat more patients more effectively.


Neuropsychological tests are a series of standardized evaluations that help determine a patient's functioning cognitive abilities in areas that are often most affected in people who show signs of opiate use. Things like memory, intelligence, attention, motivation, language, perception, sensorimotor functionality, quality of life, and personality are all taken into account, among several others. These tests often take several hours and are administrated by a highly specialized professional trained to score the tests and assess where patients fall on the Neuropsychological spectrum.


How are Neuropsychological Tests Helpful in Treatment?


Each person facing addiction is an individual with unique needs. Treatment plans for those with substance use disorders that are one-size-fits-all are rarely effective and can lead patients down a frustrating road of chronic relapse. When medical providers can use tests such as these to assess how much substance use disorder has damaged a patient's cognitive functions, they are also learning about their specific needs which can impact medication dosage. They're also able to give patients referrals to specialists to help address dual diagnosis, vital for those who have a mental illness.


A dimensional approach using these standardized tests, along with medication-assisted treatment, can mean a world of difference for patients in opioid use disorder treatment. However, there are also challenges that medical providers face when utilizing them to assess a patient's needs. The effects of withdrawal and early phases of finding the right dosage of medication in MAT can impact how a patient performs on the test. While neuropsychological testing is more prevalent in residential treatment centers for substance use disorder, it can still be valuable to clinicians and medical staff in outpatient treatment centers.


The purpose of neuropsychological testing is to help guide patients through substance use disorder treatment and long-lasting recovery by honing in on each patient's individual needs based on their cognitive functionality. Because of how the disease of addiction impacts the brain, it's important to evaluate each patient's neuropsychological condition to aid them in rehabilitating certain areas that may have been damaged by substances more than others.


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