Treating Opioid Addiction
As powerful drugs, opioids are very likely to cause chemical dependency and highly addictive. Because of this, it’s not common for a user to be able to simply stop taking them. That’s why treatment for opioid addiction is so important. Often that starts with opioid detox, a process in which the body works through removing the drug from the system.
If you or a loved one is using opioids, detox and treatment are available in several forms. To determine the best treatment for opioid addiction for you, the first step is to have a full evaluation to determine the severity of the addiction and likely withdrawal risks. Therapists and medical staff can then determine the best treatment to help you.
How Opioid Addiction Is Treated
Opioid addiction can impact every area of a person’s life. The changes it creates in the brain’s function make it difficult for a person to simply stop using the drug, though. As a result, many people continue to use it until they are at risk of an overdose. The sooner treatment for opioid addiction is obtained, the more effective it may be.
Doctors and medical staff may determine a person needs various levels of care based on their mental health, physical dependency, at-home risks and motivations. Among the opioid treatment options are the following:
Because opioid withdrawal can sometimes create high-risk medical concerns, most people with this type of addiction need to work through detox. It’s a necessary step to help the body remove the toxins from the drugs. Detox is an uncomfortable process, often leading to intense cravings and pain. It also creates emotional and mental health struggles.
The best way to treat this is to ensure detox is completed within a medically supervised program. In these situations, a physician is on hand to help with the process and monitor for high-risk complications. In severe dependency, it’s possible for life-threatening withdrawal symptoms to occur. This includes seizures, paranoia, loss of consciousness, rapid or irregular heartbeats and mental confusion.
A medically assisted detox process may also involve the use of medications. These may help to reduce withdrawal symptoms and pain, making it more likely for a person to remain in detox and long-term treatment.
Residential or inpatient opioid addiction treatment is very common. It follows detox for most people. Opioids have such a strong addictive quality about them that just removing them from the body isn’t enough. It’s also important to work through a series of therapy sessions. Residential treatment programs customize the care provided according to the severity of the addiction and the individual’s specific needs. Most often, this will be a combination of treatments that include medication, counseling, group therapy and holistic care.
Residential treatment is intense. Clients stay at the rehab center during the process. These locations offer 24-hour monitoring and can provide help with virtually all facets of both physical addiction and mental illness.
Though most people come from detox into residential care, it is also possible to enter straight into an inpatient program. This may be possible if a person is not using currently but is at risk of using again. Whether residential care is necessary depends on a formal evaluation of health, mental fitness, at-home environment and other needs. For most people, opioid withdrawal treatment and ongoing counseling established in residential rehab create a strong foundation for building a recovery lifestyle.
Customized care is necessary for most people. It generally includes cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as other supportive services through one-on-one work with a therapist. The person learns why addiction occurred as well as how to treat the underlying cause. Strategies are incorporated to help minimize the risk of relapse by providing problem-solving skills.
Care may include:
- 24-hour monitoring for health and emotional needs
- 12-step program
- Individual, group and family therapy opportunities
- Medication management as needed
- Nutritional treatment
- Co-occurring disorder treatment
- Holistic care
- Aftercare planning and support
It is not common for opioid treatment to begin with outpatient care due to the severity of the addiction and the likelihood of relapse, it is more common and recommended to ‘step-down’ to this level of care. Outpatient care will follow most inpatient treatment programs and can range from a few weeks to several months. Some programs employ an ongoing model of providing care.
Outpatient care allows a person to remain at home while receiving counseling. It usually involves two to five sessions a week for a few hours at a time. A more common version is intensive outpatient care. Here, a person spends nights at home but receives treatment three to five days a week for four to six hours at a time. For opioid addiction, this is more common.
In either situation, care helps a person to work on problem-solving and decision-making skills. It also helps to understand any triggers that can lead to relapse. During outpatient programs, treatment still includes individual and group therapy sessions. It may include holistic care as well.
Why Opioid Addiction Needs Treatment
Without opioid treatment, most people would find it nearly impossible to stop using the drug. This is due to the way opioids interact with and change the brain’s chemistry. More specifically, they change the communication between neurotransmitters. Once the brain becomes dependent, it can’t operate normally without the drug. This creates intense cravings and even physical pain. A person continues to use it because of this change.
Detox and therapy help to “fix” this by rewiring the brain and eliminating the toxins present. This also helps to improve the body’s overall health and allows therapists to help with underlying causes of addiction, such as trauma or mental illness.
How Long Is Opioid Treatment?
Most people will remain in detox for three to seven days. Residential inpatient care can last for a few weeks or up to 90 days, depending on need. Outpatient care tends to be ongoing or as much as possible to help solidify sobriety. Many people will find that mentorships and 12-step programs can also help to provide ongoing support.
Even after you’ve worked through all of the professional care necessary, opioid addiction requires ongoing, lifelong support. This may not be from routine meetings, but having a support team and mentor to turn to in high-risk cases is valuable.
Therapies Used in Treating Opioid Addiction
Customized care is always necessary for opioid treatment. Treatment options may thus include any of the following:
Medical Treatment for opioid Addiction
Medical care for a person’s physical health is always available during detox and inpatient treatment. Sometimes, doctors may recommend the use of medications to help with the treatment. This may include medications such as:
- Methadone: This medication works to stimulate the same receptors in the brain that opioids do but does not create the strong sense of euphoria. Because it doesn’t feel as good, it can help wean a person off long-term use.
- Buprenorphine: This type of medication works to stop the withdrawal symptoms a patient may have. It also stops some forms of opioids from working, eliminating the high.
- Naltrexone: This medication works much like buprenorphine, but it eliminates the effectiveness of opioids.
- Pain medications: Most often, over-the-counter and non-opioid medications are used to help with pain during detox.
- Suboxone: A combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone, this drug works to stop the withdrawal symptoms while helping a person work through therapy.
Holistic Treatment for Opioids
Holistic care is possible during opioid addiction treatment. This is any type of noninvasive and alternative treatment. Some common options include:
- Yoga or Pilates
- Experiential treatment, such as equine therapy or art classes
- Fitness and exercise programs
Lifelong Recovery from Opioid Addiction
The key to a person’s long-term recovery is maintaining connections with supportive services. This may mean heading back in to see a therapist if you become at risk of relapse, such as thinking about using. Mentorships and 12-step programs provide local, community-based support as well. Lifelong recovery is by far the most valuable tool for maintaining sobriety for years to come.
Get Help for Opioid Addiction at FHE Health
Opioid addiction treatment is comprehensive and available to most people. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, turn to FHE Health for immediate help. Our compassionate counselors are available by calling 844-299-0618. Treatment for opioid addiction involves detox, withdrawal treatment and long-term care. FHE Health can tell you more.