Recovery from Opioid Addiction: Withdrawal and Treatment

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that up to 36 million people around the world are addicted to opioids, which includes prescription painkillers and illicit drugs like heroin. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares that 91 people die every day from an opioid overdose in America.

Choosing to accept professional help for any addiction is challenging. Due to the growing number of opioid-related deaths, it’s especially important to recognize and support users who seek treatment.

Opioids bind to the opioid receptors in the brain to reduce the feeling of pain. In addition, repeated use causes addicts to build up a tolerance, meaning they need more of the drug to feel the same effects. Therefore, detox can be particularly challenging for opioid users, especially if they’ve been addicted for a long time.

Opioid Withdrawal

Detox is the first step in recovery. Opioid withdrawal is unique in that symptoms can start in just a few hours after the most recent dose. Symptoms typically last for up to a week. Dependency often impacts severity of withdrawal, but detox in a controlled environment with a medical professional is recommended.

Here are some common symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle aches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Agitation
  • Cravings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sweating
  • High blood pressure

A doctor is able to manage withdrawal symptoms and provide as much comfort as possible, especially if any complications arise. Managed detox also reduces the likelihood of an overdose, as many occur in people who just detoxed. Following a detox, a person can overdose on a much smaller dose because his or her tolerance is lower.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

While the opioid epidemic is a serious problem, the good news is that recovery from opioid addiction is possible. Following detox, these types of therapies are typically available to recovering opioid users in inpatient or outpatient treatment programs.

Pharmacological treatment is frequently used to treat opioid addiction. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) offers relief from opioid addiction and withdrawal symptoms, in conjunction with support programs and counseling. Note that most MAT programs require counseling. Methadone and suboxone are the most common medications for MAT. These are still considered opiates, but don’t produce the same withdrawal symptoms or cause the same harmful behaviors. Methadone is only dispensed at licensed outpatient treatment centers.

Counseling in individual, group or family settings is intended to help users with the underlying causes of addiction. Behavioral therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is proven to be effective in helping modify behaviors and thoughts associated with drug use. For example, this type of counseling focuses on appropriately responding to life stressors that previously caused opioid use.

Recovery from opioid addiction is an ongoing process. Your addiction counselor can offer aftercare options based on your treatment history and needs. In addition, programs like Narcotics Anonymous and community initiatives are intended to help those in recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid addiction, learn more about our assessments process or call (888) 694-9996.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse
  3. http://www.healthline.com/health/opiate-withdrawal#overview1
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm

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