As powerful drugs, opioids are very likely to cause chemical dependency and are 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 Is Opioid Addiction 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 opioid 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 from opioids 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.
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Residential or inpatient opioid addiction treatment is very common. It follows detox treatment from opioids 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
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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.
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Why Does Opioid Addiction Require Formal 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.
Opioid 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.
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What Therapies Are Used in Treating Opioid Addiction?
Customized care is always necessary for opioid treatment. Treatment options may thus include any of the following:
Because successful recovery takes an individualized approach, we combine a variety of different modalities of therapy to fit the needs of the individual undergoing treatment. All forms of therapy are either done with a group or in individual, one-on-one sessions.
Group therapy is when groups of people undergoing treatment share stories and experiences, gain perspective, discuss strategies for sobriety and offer collective support for each other. Therapy offered in a group setting doesn’t allow for as much individual attention but helps each individual build insight, empathy and trust in their peers.
Individual therapy sessions are more focused on a specific purpose for a specific individual. In an individual session, a licensed substance abuse therapist will prompt the person in treatment to share their experiences, discuss their triggers and unpack the underlying causes of their substance use and abuse.
What Methods of Therapy Are Used in Opioid Addiction Treatment?
Treatment for opiate addiction can take a number of different forms, depending on the unique needs of an individual in treatment. Expert therapists at FHE Health choose the right mix from a range of therapies. These include:
CBT and DBT
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) fit into a category called “evidence-based therapies,” meaning they’ve been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions. They both focus on encouraging people to understand their thought and behavioral responses in certain situations and helping them change their reactions.
12-step groups are commonly associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. At FHE Health, we integrate the tenets of AA and NA into our treatment plans. Following the 12 steps allows people in rehab to break their recovery down into a series of actionable stages and adds structure to the process that can be continually accessed after treatment.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Motivation enhancement therapy (MET) is intended to give people an opportunity to make better decisions for themselves by building their self-image and reinforcing beneficial actions. MET is often used alongside other therapies when the person in treatment resists engaging in the process.
Contingency Management Therapy
Common in treatment for opiate and heroin addiction, contingency management therapy involves a focus on the consequences of a person’s actions. It’s sometimes called the “carrot and stick method” because it involves rewarding good outcomes and reacting negatively to bad outcomes.
Arts and Music Therapies
Expressive arts and music therapies are also offered for individuals who are having a hard time engaging in psychotherapy — also known as “talk therapy.” Encouraging people to express themselves creatively through art or song can be effective in breaking down the barriers some people bring into their rehab journey.
We also offer other, less common therapy options that can be added to a comprehensive treatment plan, including EMDR, neurotherapy and more.
What Forms of Medical Treatment Are Used 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.
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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 833-591-1578. Treatment for opioid addiction involves detox, withdrawal treatment and long-term care. FHE Health can tell you more.