Opioid addiction is a serious medical condition that requires immediate treatment. Prolonged use of opioid drugs causes changes in the brain, tricking it into thinking the drug is needed to function or “feel normal”. Overcoming an opioid addiction is not easy. It requires medical detoxification, rehabilitation with medications and counseling, as well as life long maintenance with the help of support groups to stay on the road to recovery.
Physical Dependency to Opioid Drugs
Opioid drug use causes serious changes in the brain, altering the circuits responsible for mood and “reward” behaviors. Long term opioid drug abuse affects nearly all systems in the body. When abruptly stopping its use you may experience a wide array of withdrawal symptoms as the body begins to adjust to not having the drug present.
Common Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal Include:
- Abdominal pain
- Agitation and severe negative moods
- Body aches
- Chills and goose bumps (the origin of the phrase “cold turkey”)
- Craving for drugs
- Large pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
Opioid withdrawal symptoms will last any where from a few hours to a few days, for some they may last weeks depending on the severity of their addiction. Even after the physical symptoms of withdrawal begin to fade away, there may be mental discomfort that last for weeks, even months.
A serious addiction to opioid drugs can cause agonizing pain for the individual when they begin to withdrawal. This is why many addicts will do all that they can to prevent experiencing these symptoms of withdrawal, even when attempting to quit they will often relapse in search of relief from withdrawal.
Pharmaceutical Therapy for Opioid Withdrawal
Opioid withdrawal is not only physically painful, it causes mental and emotional pain that add to the difficulties associated with quitting. Pharmaceutical therapy is often used to prevent symptoms of opioid withdrawal during detox, helping to ease the patient out of the physical dependency. The following are commonly used prescription medications during opioid detox:
Methadone is a long-acting opioid drug that works by activating the same opioid receptors as narcotics. It is quite effective in eliminating withdrawal symptoms. Doctors prescribe methadone at a dose to ease symptoms of withdrawal without producing the euphoric effects that often lead to abuse. When methadone is used to help a patient recover from opioid addiction, the dose will be slowly tapered off to prevent the patient from experiencing any withdrawal symptoms and allowing them to recover from physical dependency. Methadone is the most commonly used medication in the treatment for narcotic addiction.
Buprenorphine (Subutex) is a drug that helps patients detox from prescription opioid addiction. It is typically given during the first few days of treatment, and works by activating opioid receptors, reducing drug craving and preventing withdrawal.
Clonidine is a blood pressure medicine that acts on the brain, reducing the effects of the “fight or flight” response, which is activated during opioid withdrawal. It does not reduce drug cravings. Clonidine is often used in combination with other medications during the detoxification process.
Rehabilitation for Opioid Addiction
Once a patient has made it through the detoxification process they will continue on through the rehabilitation process. Therapy and counseling sessions will help the patient to get to the root cause of their problem and work through it. They will be able to recognize the dysfunctional behaviors and routines associated with opioid abuse and make the choice to change them. Educational lectures will help patients to fully understand their addiction and help them in developed the key tools needed to maintain life long sobriety. Rehabilitation services often include:
- Behavioral Modification Therapy
- Individual Counseling
- Group Counseling
- Educational Lectures
- Family Counseling