Opioids are making the news because of how easy it is to misuse them and suffer the consequences. Somewhere between 20-30 percent of people prescribed opioids for pain management use them in a way they weren’t intended. Using prescription opioids can even lead to people using illegal drugs like heroin.
What Is an Opioid?
Opioid pain relievers work because they affect the nerve cells in the brain and body to help patients deal with pain. Unfortunately, they can also cause patients to feel ecstatic, and trying to recapture that feeling leads to misuse.
Dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain, is released when opioids are used. Dopamine is also released when a person does something good, like running or connecting with others. It’s a reward so that a person will do this behavior again.
Unfortunately, the release of dopamine is part of what makes getting off of opioids hard. The brain is being rewarded for taking the drug that is hurting it, making getting off opioids difficult.
While opioids are usually safe if used for a short period under the eye of a professional, the chance of addiction and overdose is real because of how addicting opioids can be.
A few examples of opioids include:
How Do People Get Addicted?
Just because a person realizes they are addicted to opioids doesn’t mean getting off them will be easy. Opioids release endorphins in the brain that decrease pain and make patients feel a sense of happiness and euphoria. Patients will often increase the number of opioids they take to continue having the pleasurable sensation that a lower dose is used to give them. This can even lead to the use of illegal opioids if prescription ones are unavailable.
Even when a person wants to stop taking these drugs, the body and brain make it very difficult. The pain from withdrawals is genuine and can be extremely difficult to deal with alone.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Racing heart
- Physical pain
- Blood pressure changes
The severity of withdrawal symptoms makes overcoming an addiction much more than simply a matter of willpower. Opioid addiction causes physical dependency, and this makes them especially hard to quit. How long a person has been taking an opioid and what kind they use determines how long withdrawal symptoms will last. Some people suffer through hours of withdrawals, and others may struggle for weeks.
Treatments That Work
Seeking help early is one of the best ways to keep opioid addiction from affecting the brain long term. There are ways to overcome addiction and to detox from the drugs in the body and brain.
Methadone is a medication that has been used to help those who are addicted recover and make it through withdrawal. Methadone is technically an opioid, but it doesn’t give a person a high the way typical opioids do. Patients suffer from fewer withdrawal symptoms while on Methadone, which can help them get through the detox process without going back to drugs.
Methadone has to be taken at a clinic that can monitor the dosage given. A patient may walk in daily to get the Methadone or stay at a facility for some time while they are taking it.
Buprenorphine works like Methadone, but it’s not as strong. It can be used with medications like Naltrexone. Naltrexone won’t stop withdrawal symptoms, but it will make it impossible for a person to get high. A combination of Buprenorphine and Naltrexone under the care of a professional can help a person make it through withdrawal and eliminate the euphoric feeling that got them addicted to opioids in the first place.
Detox is the first step to kicking an opioid addiction, but it’s not the last. Without maintenance care, patients are at risk of going back to opioids when the temptation hits. No one wants to start the entire process of addiction and detox over again. That’s why it’s essential for those hoping to end their addiction to have a team that knows how to help them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT)
CBT is used to help people in various situations, and it is an effective tool for those trying to overcome addiction. CBT teaches people to recognize how what they feel and think impacts the way they act. This type of therapy helps people realize their negative thoughts and feelings to change how they think of themselves and their choices, changing decisions and actions.
Humans respond to incentives, and that’s why contingency management is an excellent treatment for those hoping to overcome addiction. This type of therapy offers tangible rewards for success, and it ensures people are rewarded for meeting small and large goals.
To help patients be partners in their recovery, therapists can use motivational interviewing. This approach allows patients to set goals and find the motivation to keep them when it comes to staying sober. It also helps patients recognize the reasons they are using that stop them from quitting drugs.
Addiction can take a significant toll on a person’s sense of self-worth. The Matrix Model addresses this and helps individuals who are recovering believe in themselves. It also includes group and family therapies and helps educate patients about drugs. The Matrix Model is used when relapse prevention is the primary goal.
Programs, such as the famous 12-step program, are often used to help patients overcome addiction to stay connected and accountable. Meeting attendance helps keep patients around others who are going through the same thing. Programs also offer sponsors that can be called in times of distress, so drugs are not the first place a person turns when tempted.
It can be intimidating to think about staying in a rehabilitation center to detox from opioids. However, it’s often the most effective way to deal with addiction and stop the relapse process. Places like Garden State Detox offer a sanctuary where patients can get physically stable and receive the additional support they will need to stay off opioids in the future.
Rehab centers can give the medication needed to get patients through withdrawal, but they can also offer therapy and holistic care to make staying sober easier. Those who work with patients don’t just see an addict; and they see someone who needs help they know how to provide. How long a person stays is dependent on their unique needs and response to treatment.
Depending on the need, it’s possible to receive out-patient or in-patient care, and insurance may cover some or all of a patient’s stay in rehab. Seeking help at any time is essential, but quality support early on can make a massive difference in the overall impact of opioid addiction.
Overcoming an addiction is not easy, but with the right help, it is possible to get sober and stay that way. Patients do best when they find a facility and people who treat their unique needs and understand how to help them detox and stay motivated. Healing from addiction is a process, but taking the first step is worth it.
What medication is best for withdrawal?
Buprenorphine is the best opioid medication for management of moderate to severe opioid withdrawal. It alleviates withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings.