Substance abuse is a serious and growing epidemic in The United States and across the globe. It changes and ruins lives and can lure in almost anyone. It is not just street drugs that can be addictive and cause a vicious cycle of repeated binges followed by failed attempts at regaining a sober life. Many of the drugs that are prescribed by physicians everyday can lead to withdrawal and addiction depending on the amount taken and the duration of use.
One of the most addicting drug groups that is extremely hard to recover from is Opiates. The opium poppy, is the original source from which narcotics are extracted. These narcotics include morphine, opium, codeine, and heroin among others. Users will feel a euphoric rush while under the influence of opiates. This rush is commonly trailed by a period of relaxation which also relieves any pain that the user may have had before. Opiates are highly addictive and a resistance is often started with only the first use. This causes the user to have to ingest more in order to achieve the same, desired effect as before, and leads to physical dependency. Thus the cycle of addiction begins and sadly, quickly deteriorates to a level in which the addict’s only concern in life is the next high.
Chronic use of opiates leads to physical dependence. Among those that are physically dependent upon opiates, withdrawal happens with the discontinuation of use. The level of severity and nature of symptoms that are associated with opiate withdrawal vary between the different types of drugs that fall under this category and are related to their chemical make-up.
Treatment options for opiate addicts typically include:
- Medical intervention (ex: Methadone)
- Individual/group Therapy
- External/Environmental support training
- Support system partnerships between facility staff and family/friends
Common Pharmacological Treatments for Relieving/Managing Withdrawal from Opiates
- Methadone-is a strong painkiller that has been available in the U.S. since 1947. It is intended for the use of severe pain relief and for the treatment of narcotic addiction. Methadone is a synthetic narcotic that has begun to be abused as it has become more popular within narcotic addiction treatment facilities.
- Buprenorphine– was introduced in the U.S. in 1985 as a schedule V narcotic pain reliever. It was developed to be used in patients suffering high levels of pain and for the treatment of opiate addiction. As an analgesic pain reliever, buprenorphine is approximately 20-30 times stronger than morphine.
- Clonidine– Clonidine is an innovative option available now for treating designated opiate addicts and may prove to be the preferred treatment when detoxification using methadone is considered to be inappropriate. Clonidine has been successful for use in the transition between opiate dependence and induction onto naltrexone during withdrawal treatment. Lofexidine, which is structurally similar to clonidine, is considered to be as effective and possibly safer as a treatment for opiate detoxification. It has comparable effects on the suppression of withdrawal symptoms, and has little evidence of causing hypotension and sedation.
Although these medications are considered to be exceedingly effective in aiding opiate addicts to reach a goal of sobriety and abstinence, medications alone will not complete the task at hand. Often addicts will relapse if they do not supplement their pharmacological therapy with other supportive treatments.
Behavioral Therapies for the Treatment of Opiate Withdrawal
After the cessation of the more severe withdrawal symptoms and once the addict is deemed medically stable by a physician, the focus of the treatment is toward a psychosocial intervention which prepares the addict for further substance abuse treatment. These intermediations are meant to assist the addict with the identification and management of cravings for drugs as well as teaching them useful skills to help them avoid triggers that would typically set off these feelings. These therapies are helpful in retaining abstinence and staving off relapse, while introducing the addict to what recovery from addiction looks like socially.
Relapse Prevention Steps in Treatment for Opiate Withdrawal
Relapse prevention steps combine behavioral therapy and support networks for the purpose of encouraging recovery and maintaining abstinence in the face of reality. This may include encouragement to change life circumstances, acquaintances, social circles, and any unstable, triggering, unsupportive facet lingering from their past. Recognition of the pitfalls associated with relapse is also an area typically addressed.
Co-partnering and Support Systems:
It is incredibly important for any recovering addict to have a supportive environment. Partnering between facility care staff and family/friends is often encouraged during hospitalized or intensive “in-house” treatment facilities. This helps the addict’s external support system to learn the steps needed for their recovery as well as informing them on the hazards to watch out for when they are back in society. Family/friends support can also be accompanied by self-help support groups that are independent of the treatment facility, but preach the same message in a different setting.
In the treatment and rehabilitation of substance use disorders, detoxification alone is not adequate for full recovery. Combining detox with supportive training and possibly supplements, as well as enlisting the help of family and friends that are in favor of sobriety and a full recovery, is the best path to help ensure the success of this goal.