Opioid dependence is one of humanity’s oldest and most wide spread drug problems, second only to alcohol. Over the past decade there has been a growing number of patients being treated for opioid dependence throughout the world. In the United States there are approximately one million opioid addicts in need of help. Research has allowed treatment facilities to develop programs focused on helping opioid dependent patients to recovery in a safe and healthy manner, allowing them to create more fulfilling lives for themselves in sobriety.
What are Opioids?
There are dozens of opioid drugs today, used for both medical and recreational purposes. They are produced by extracting the drug from the seeds of the opium poppy plant, as well as being synthesized in laboratories. The seeds of the poppy plant contain many drugs including morphine and codeine, which are potent pain relievers. Synthetic opioid medications include hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and heroin. Physicians throughout the world use many of these drugs to treat patients suffering from moderate to severe pain.
How do Opioids Work?
Opioid drugs directly affect neurotransmitters in the brain called endorphins and enkephalins. The drug acts at nerve receptors for these natural body chemicals, suppressing pain, reduce anxiety, and at high doses even producing euphoria effects. Typically opioids are taken by mouth when used for medical purposes. However, they can also be injected, smoked or snorted, as this produces the strongest and most immediate pleasure desired by opioid abusers.
Developing an Opioid Dependency
Patients prescribed opioid medications are watched carefully to ensure that they do not develop a dependency, the medication only being prescribed for a short period of time to help ensure the patients safety. Prolong use or abuse of opioid medications can lead to the individual developing a physical dependency, continuing its use despite the knowledge of its negative effects. When addicted to an opioid drug, abruptly stopping its use will result in uncomfortable, even harmful, symptoms of withdrawal. Opioid dependence is a chronic relapse disease, requiring addiction treatment services to successfully overcome.
Treating Opioid Dependence
The treatment of an Opioid dependence requires a specific treatment program designed for this chronic relapse disease, one that is tailored to the individual’s treatment needs. Upon intake into an treatment facility the individual will go through an intake assessment to determine the severity of their addiction, allowing staff to develop a safe and healthy treatment plan to help them recover from opioid dependence. The individual will then go through a wide array of treatment aspects that will help them overcome their physical and psychological dependency to opioid drugs.
Most being treated for opioid dependence will begin with detoxification, allowing them to withdrawal from the drug in an controlled and medically supervised environment. The individual may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms including; agitation; anxiety; tremors; muscle aches; hot and cold flashes; sometimes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, these are not life threatening.
There are various different approaches that may be taken during the detoxification process. The individual may be prescribed a synthetic opiate for relief, or an anti-hypertensive to help shorten the withdrawal time and relieve physical symptoms.
Behavioral Therapy will help the individual to learn the associations and patterns of reward and punishment. They will be able to identify and remember moods, thoughts, and situations that tempt them to use opioids. The behavioral therapist will help them to learn how to avoid these temptations, consider the consequences of relapse, and develop other ways to achieve a feeling of pleasure or accomplishment.
Group therapy helps opioid addicts to open up in their addiction amongst others suffering in a similar way. A group uses the need to belong and the healing power of human connections. The idea of group therapy is to let individual help themselves, while helping others. Members of the group will be preparing one another for life outside the treatment facility, developing key tools needed to maintain their sobriety when returning home, allowing them to develop a sense of support groups which will help aid them in their life long recovery.