Opioid dependence and addiction can be immensely challenging, both physically and emotionally. When a person develops these medical problems, they may find themselves struggling to maintain their daily lives. They may lose their employment, friends, and sense of stability. These forms of dependence and addiction can quickly spiral out of control, consuming nearly every aspect of the person’s life.
When people begin to realize that they want help for this problem, or when loved ones see their friend or family member start down this scary path, it can be a confusing to know where to turn. There are treatment options available for opioid dependence. Addicted individuals and those who care about them should understand some important information about these medical conditions and the help available. This will help them make informed decisions about the next step and how to help the person get on track towards health and recovery.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids are highly addictive substances that can quickly cause addiction and dependence. They come both as legal prescription medications, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, and as illegal street drugs, such as heroin. Regardless of the name of the drug, the process by which it causes addiction and dependence remains largely the same.
In the brain there are receptors. These receptors are designed for opioid-like molecules that the body produces naturally to help regulate emotions and the general functionality of the body. When people bring in opioids, the molecules from the drugs will easily fit into these receptors. This will then cause the body to release dopamine and give a feeling of euphoria. For patients who take an opioid pain medication, this reaction will then help to mask some of the serious pain symptoms, bringing relief. Regardless of whether the drug is taken as a part of a pain management process, prolonged and repeated exposure to the opioid increases the chances of the brain developing tolerance for the drug.
When the brain starts to become tolerant to the drug, it takes more and more of the opioid to produce that feeling of euphoria. Unfortunately, this also means that the body’s natural opioid-like molecules will start to struggle to do their job. It will slowly get to the point where the brain can no longer induce its natural reactions. The person will then begin to experience withdrawal.
It is important to note that once the brain begins to have this physical dependence on the external opioid, the patient’s brain has changed and their ability to just stop using the drug becomes essentially impossible without treatment. It has now become a brain disease and should be treated as a chronic illness.
For people in Massachusetts, the danger of illicit use of prescription medications remains concerning. In the state, the non-medical use of pain relievers for those over 12 was as high as 3.50 percent from 2013 to 2014. The percent of people needing, but not receiving, treatment for illicit drug use rose from 2.47 in 2012-2013 to 2.71 percent in 2013-2014 in the 12 and over group.
Many of these people may also be facing mental illness, as 1,008,000 people were estimated to have had a mental illness between 2014 and 2015. Treatment for people struggling with both mental illness and substance abuse needs to address both issues to be successful.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a potent illegal street drug that has become an epidemic in the United States. In Massachusetts alone, an estimated 13,000 people used heroin between 2014 and 2015. Heroin is derived from the opium of a poppy plant and can cause intense dependence very quickly. Patients are also at an increased risk from using the drug since many will use needles to inject it. Sharing needles can spread many diseases, including HIV.
Treatment For Heroin And Opioid Addiction And Dependence
Once patients develop dependence on opioids, recovery often becomes multifaceted. Addicted individuals must not only physically rid their bodies of the drug (detoxification), but then face the cravings (withdrawal) and learn how to adapt to a new lifestyle that does not include opioids. Addicted individuals must generally begin their treatment program by going through two phases: detox and addiction recovery.
Detox is the phase when people with physical dependence will physically rid themselves of the drug of choice. This can be an immense struggle, because the brain chemistry of the individual has changed ,and they now have intense cravings for their drug of choice. People may find that their withdrawal symptoms arrive as early as a few hours after their last time using the drug, peak about a few days after their last usage, and then last about a week.
The symptoms many people will experience include nausea, intense cravings, anxiety and depression, stomach and muscle cramps, feeling as though their heart is racing, muscle aches, and fever. The intensity of these symptoms can vary from patient to patient, often depending on the severity of their dependence and how much of the drug they used.
Since the treatment experience can vary widely, so too can the method for detox. Most detox takes place under medical supervision. Under the standard treatment plan, peoplee will be given medications, such as buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv) to help them cope with the side effects of withdrawal, receiving decreasing doses of medications that behave similarly to their drug of choice.
In certain situations, doctors can also quickly detox patients. This is often done under anesthesia, and the person will receive blockers that stop the effect of the opioid along with medications to lessen the withdrawal symptoms.
For some people, detox can be done as an outpatient process, but this is generally recommended only for those who anticipate relatively mild withdrawal side effects. These people may be given medications, such as methadone, to help them with the process. When done in this manner, the process will take about seven to 14 days.
Once addicted individuals successfully complete detox, they are ready to begin the next phase of their treatment. Since their bodies have been freed from the drug, they are now empowered to focus on healing and learning how to cope with the challenges of sobriety.
There are two main options for opioid treatment in Massachusetts: inpatient and outpatient. Most individuals will need inpatient treatment, which provides them with support and guidance around-the-clock as they learn how to live without their drug of choice, and find their way towards a healthier, more productive lifestyle.
With the inpatient treatment option, people will find that they have options with regards to the types of treatment centers and the duration of the stay. Some inpatient treatment programs may be as short as a few weeks, while others will be a few months, or even longer. Different treatment centers will also offer traditional therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), or alternative and holistic treatments. There are also several that will offer combinations of these treatment options.
CBT is a therapy that allows participants to talk about their problems and learn new ways to think and behave. DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment, helping participants manage surges in emotion and their reactions.
Alternative and holistic treatments aim to treat the entire person. They can include a wide range of activities such as horseback riding, art therapy, or yoga. These therapies help participants express themselves and find the motivation to remain sober.
There are also outpatient treatments available, which might meet every day or a few days a week. For those who have obligations such as childcare or jobs, they can be helpful. Given the risk of opioid-dependent individuals to relapse, however, the lack of support 24 hours a day, seven days a week early in recovery might be problematic for many new to recovery. People will generally receive personal and group therapy sessions during outpatient treatment.
For some individuals, treatment will be most effective when it can be completed with medication. Prescriptions such as methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv) are designed to activate the same parts of the brain as other opioid drugs without causing the high and cravings of the regular drug. This helps addicted persons manage cravings and begin to heal in other parts of their lives, such as rebuilding relationships or finding steady employment.
Drug Rehab Centers Available In Massachusetts
Overcoming opioid dependence can be a tremendous struggle for many people. We believe that addicted individuals and their loved ones should have access to the latest information available to make informed decisions. If you have more questions about opioid addiction recovery and drug rehab centers in Massachusetts, we encourage you to contact us at DrugRehab.org.
Massachusetts Opioid Drug Rehabs
- Belmont (1)
East Wareham (1)
Fall River (3)
Jamaica Plain (3)
New Bedford (3)
North Adams (1)