The epidemic of heroin and opioid dependency has hit millions of people across the United States. This terrible disease does not discriminate by race, socioeconomic status, education level, or location. Sadly, the people of Montana have not been exempt. When you or someone you know has been impacted by this disease, it can be a challenge to know where to turn for advice and information about the next steps.
To be able to make the right decisions about treatment and how to build a helpful, successful support system, patients and their loved ones need to understand this chemical dependency, the types of available treatment, and what is available to patients in Montana.
What are Opioids?
The term ‘opioids’ describes a class of drugs that has the power to change the very chemistry of the brain. With regular use, they can cause the patient to become physically dependent upon them, which then drives harmful, drug-seeking behavior. Once patients have become dependent upon these substances, it becomes nearly impossible for them to stop without quality medical help. This chronic disease is not a question of willpower.
Several different types of opioids exist. The legal ones, such as oxycodone, doctors will prescribe generally for pain. Even though they are legal, patients still develop dependencies upon them. For some patients, this dependency on the legal opioid painkillers can even drive people to seek out the street forms of the drug, including heroin, when they can no longer afford or otherwise meet their needs with the original drug. In Montana, the use of pain medications for nonmedical uses remains a problem. A report from SAMHSA found that the usage of these drugs stood at 3.24 percent of the over 12 population from 2013-2014.
When a person takes an opioid, the molecules in the drug bind to particular receptors in their brain. These receptors are designed for certain natural chemicals the body produces, such as endorphins. The opioids, however, are shaped in a way that allows them to fit easily into these receptors. When the molecules, either from the drug or the natural body processes, trigger the receptors, dopamine is released. When this process occurs naturally, the body helps regulate itself. When the opioid consumption occurs because of a pain relief medication, the release helps to mask the pain and discomfort the patient experiences. When the drugs are used recreationally, however, the patient experiences a euphoria.
As the patient repeatedly uses the drug, the brain’s receptors eventually start to become desensitized to the molecules bonding to it. This means that the patient ends up needing regular doses of the drug, often in increasing amounts, to induce the same effect. It also means that patient’s body will begin to struggle with its own natural processes. The chemicals that the body produced to bond to the receptors will become inadequate. This results in the body beginning to go through feelings of withdrawal. The brain then begins to intensely need the drug, leading to the patient experiencing powerful cravings along with physical discomfort that drives them to find more. Thus begins the harmful cycle that drives intense dependency.
Unfortunately, because of the serious brain changes that have already occurred, even after patients successfully complete detox and treatment, they still must often face cravings and temptations. Some patients will continue to experience these symptoms even years after their last usage. For this reason, patients and their loved ones must be vigilant to avoid relapse. In Montana, sadly, many patients who need medical help for these conditions do not receive the help they need. A full 1.97 percent of the over 12 population in the state need some kind of rehab but are not currently in treatment.
What is Heroin?
Heroin, in particular, is an illegal type of opiate. The drug is generally injected with needles by users. This means that patients must not only cope with the dangerous and consuming brain changes that occur, but they also place themselves at risk for infections as well as the serious diseases that spread through shared needles, including HIV. In Montana, many patients struggle with this drug. An estimated 1,000 people used the drug between 2014 and 2015. These people will need intensive help to begin to find their way to recovery.
How do people recover from dependence on heroin and other opioids?
Recovery from opioid dependency requires patients to go through several phases of treatment. They must first detox their bodies from the drug, which can be a physically and emotionally challenging experience. They then must work through their main treatment, where therapists and group meetings will help them understand what led to their disease and how they can successfully move forward and become productive citizens again. Even after patients have finished their main treatment, however, patients must continue to be watchful to avoid relapse. For many patients, some form of aftercare, such as 12 step meetings, make this part of the recovery easier.
During treatment, many patients end up experiencing relief through the use of certain medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine. These medications help by mimicking some of the behaviors of the drug without causing the high and cravings of the standard drug. Often, people can take great strides towards their transition back to their community and daily life with the help of these drugs, such as securing employment and rebuilding relationships.
For many patients, a medically assisted detox will be the healthiest option. In this scenario, patients will be under constant medical care. These doctors and trained staff will help patients cope with the withdrawal experience, including providing medications as needed to lesson the side effects. The side effects of withdrawal can vary from patient to patient and will depend upon the intensity of their opioid usage. The symptoms can begin as early as 6 hours after the last usage of the drug, peaking around day three, and then lasting for about a week. Many patients report symptoms such as fever, nausea, cramping, depression, and anxiety.
In certain situations, patients will need to complete the detox period quickly. Doctors helping in these situations can place patients under anesthesia and then administer opiate blockers along with medications to help the patient cope with the withdrawal.
There are also situations where the patient completes the detox process independently. Generally, patients should still visit a doctor for guidance even they plan to detox at home. The doctor can also prescribe helpful medications to make the process smoother.
Once patients have gone through the important detox phase, they will be better equipped to begin their recovery. Since there are side effects to the detox period, rehabs will either provide specific detox services or expect patients to have gone through the process when they arrive for the standard treatment.
There are two main types of treatment available: inpatient and outpatient. The one that works best for an individual patient may vary depending upon the severity of the dependence as well as the support system the patient has at home. For many patients, however, inpatient will be the best solution since it offers care and support around the clock during the earliest days of the recovery process.
Inpatient rehab facilities can vary widely in the duration of the stay, from a few days or weeks up to a few months. Many locations will also customize the length of the stay depending upon how the patient progresses.
Inpatient treatment facilities also vary in the types of therapy they use. Rehabs that have a more traditional focus will often use 12 step philosophies, CBT, and DBT to help patients modify their behaviors and equip them to cope with the temptations of society.
Other facilities will use alternative or holistic practices, such as yoga, adventure therapy, or art therapy. These options ideally build up the patient, challenge them, and help them find the motivation they need to live soberly. Many facilities will incorporate both traditional and alternative practices.
Outpatient treatment facilities generally meet several hours a week, using both individual and group therapy. Patients build their support system while also learning to live without their drugs of choice in their regular environment.
Treatment centers available in Montana
Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic
The Flathead Valley Chemical Dependency Clinic offers an 8 bed recovery home for women struggling with substance abuse. Patients receive individualized treatment with a focus on building recovery skills that will allow them to live independently in the community. The facility also offers intensive outpatient and standard outpatient counseling services for both adults and adolescents.
Wilderness Treatment Center
The Wilderness Treatment Center provides an intensive 60 day inpatient treatment for teen boys and young men between the ages of 14 and 24. Patients first go through a more traditional 30 day stay where they receive individualized care from passionate and experienced counselors. They then venture out into the wilderness for the second half of their stay, where they are challenged mentally and physically, building the tools they need to continue with their recovery and live more healthful lives. The center has been in operation for more than 30 years and prides itself on working with families to keep them updated on the patient’s progress; this includes a 4 1/2 day family program that focuses on helping the family unit as a whole.
Rocky Mountain Treatment Center
The Rocky Mountain Treatment Center combines several different forms of therapy to create a thorough, helpful facility. Patients have access to programs such as equine therapy, spiritual care, and mindfulness meditation. Many also enjoy having the opportunity to explore some of the best of what Montana has to offer while in treatment, including Giant Springs and Great Falls, Montana. The center also provides family therapy to help nurture the healing and building of a stronger support system for the patient. This treatment center can also help patients regardless of the stage they are in for their recovery: medically monitored detox and aftercare are offered as well.
For more information about opioid recovery in Montana
Once patients realize they struggle with opioid dependency, finding the right treatment path can seem overwhelming. At DrugRehab.org, we are dedicated to helping patients and loved ones understand their options and find the rehab that fits them best. We invite you to reach out to us if you need any more information or you have any questions.