For patients and their loved ones, facing a serious health crisis, like opioid dependence, can feel overwhelming. People often do not know where they should turn first. There are numerous different directions they can take when it comes to finding the best treatment. Meanwhile, the potential dangers of not successfully completing treatment can be frightening. It is important for patients and their loved ones in New Mexico to arm themselves with information about opioid dependence. The better they can understand how this health problem develops and the different treatment options available in the state, the easier it will be for them to make the best decisions regarding treatment and finding the way back towards health.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs that includes both illegal street drugs, such as heroin, and powerful prescription painkillers, such as oxycontin. Regardless of whether or not the drug is legal, it can still cause changes in the patient’s brain, leading to physical dependence, cravings, and drug-seeking behaviors.
In the human brain, there are particular receptors that are designed to accept certain molecules, like endorphins. When this natural process happens, the brain releases a little dopamine and the body naturally regulates itself. Opioids produce molecules that have the ability to also bond with these particular receptors. When a person takes one of the drugs in this class, their brain will again release dopamine. If the drug was taken as a part of a pain management program, then this experience can help to mask the extreme discomfort experienced by the patient, providing relief. If the drug was not taken because of a pain management program, the patient will experience a feeling of euphoria.
In New Mexico, a pressing problems remains with people using prescription strength pain relievers for non-medical purposes. In a SAMHSA survey from 2013-2014, 4.43 percent of the 12 years and older group had used these drugs in the past year. These patients will need serious medical intervention to help them begin the process of recovery.
As the patient continues to use any of these opioids, the brain begins to develop a degree of tolerance. The brain has begun to undergo physical changes that result in disease. Since the receptors in the brain slowly become less sensitive to the input of the opioid molecules, the patient requires an increasing amount to mimic the high they had before. This also means, however, that the body’s natural molecules that are needed to keep the body functioning well begin to have trouble stimulating the brain to release the appropriate dopamine. The patient now has developed a physical dependence upon the opioids, and without them, the symptoms of withdrawal will start. The person begins to lose control over their cravings, which in turn can cause tremendous problems in their personal lives. Patients often suffer from the loss of friends and family as well as unemployment and a lack of stability. People who have found themselves struggling with this dependence require medical intervention and support through detox and treatment to overcome this chronic condition.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is an illegal opioid drug. The drug itself is derived from the poppy plant. Most people who use this drug inject it, which also opens them up to the risks associated with needle usage, including infection and the spreading of diseases through needle sharing, including HIV. While there are many different paths people take that end up leading them to heroin, there are also many patients who start using prescription opioid pain medications, but then find themselves using heroin when they can no longer afford or access their original drug of choice.
Currently, an epidemic of heroin users continues to impact communities and families across the United States. In New Mexico, an estimated 3,000 people used heroin between 2014 and 2015. During this same time frame, there were also 309,000 people who reported experiencing some kind of mental illness. Patients who struggle with mental illness in addition to the substance dependence will find that recovery can be complicated with these co occurring disorders. It is important to find treatment facilities equipped to help patients facing both.
How do people recover from dependence on heroin and other opioids?
Treatment and recovery from opioid abuse and dependence can be a long, but necessary, process. Because of the brain changes that have resulted from the continued usage of the drugs, patients who use opioids remain at a high risk for relapse, even after they have successfully gone through treatment. Some patients will find that their risk of relapse remains high even years later. With this unique situation in mind, it remains important for patients to build themselves a strong support system to help them remain vigilant and healthy both during treatment and long after they transition back to their daily routine.
Before patients can progress to their main treatment, they will need to go through detox. Detox is the period when patients remove the physical drug from their systems. For many patients, detox will be best completed while under medical supervision through an inpatient stay. People who have physical dependencies on opioids will likely experience different levels of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms often include nausea, muscle cramps, fever, intense cravings, anxiety and depression. The medical care patients receive can help them continue to press forward.
During the detox process for most patients, doctors will administer decreasing amounts of medications that help to control the side effects while also helping patients manage cravings. In certain situations, patients may need to detox more rapidly. During these times, doctors can put patients under anesthesia and give them drugs that block the impact of the opioids. Medical personnel can also administer medications that will help the patient’s body cope with the symptoms of withdrawal.
In certain situations, patients can go through withdrawal successfully as an outpatient procedure. When patients attempt to do this, they should at least meet with a doctor regularly for checkups, even though they will not be under the constant care of a medical team. Doctors can also prescribe medications, such as Buprenex, to help patients complete the detox. This path towards sobriety will typically take about one to two weeks.
Once patients have gone through detox, they now need to begin the process of healing their mind and body. There are a number of different treatment options available for patients, but they can largely be grouped into two main categories. The first is inpatient care.
When a patient enters inpatient care, they will live at the facility for an extended duration. Sometimes the program will be as short as a few weeks, while other times it might be a few months. The goal of these programs will be to provide patients with the support, guidance, and accountability they need during the beginning of their recovery to help them learn how to fight cravings. With the strong support system being built, patients will start exploring how they fell into the patterns of dependence, how they will face their cravings and temptations once outside the facility, and how to reintegrate as a productive member of society.
Inpatient treatment facilities utilize a number of different styles. Some will stick to more traditional forms of therapy, such as 12 step programs, CBT or DBT. Others will use holistic or alternative treatments, such as adventure therapy, to help patients grow as individuals and find the motivation to remain sober. Many treatment facilities now will also incorporate a few different types of therapy to help provide each patient with the skills they need to remain on the path towards recovery.
The other main option for treatment is outpatient care. Outpatient treatment can leave patients open to a greater risk of relapse since they will not have the support with them all the time. Outpatient treatments generally consist of patients meeting with counselors for both group and individual treatment. Often the meetings will take place every day or at least a few times a week. Some outpatient treatment centers can help provide continuing care or aftercare for patients after they have already completed the inpatient rehab to help them throughout their transition home.
Prescription medications can also further assist both inpatient and outpatient treatment. There are several different medications available, such as methadone and buprenorphine, for patients that mimic some of the properties of the opioid drug of choice. This allows the patient to control their cravings, without causing the same highs. This type of medication can be used to help patients begin to heal different aspects of their lives, such as finding steady employment and beginning to rebuild relationships with loved ones.
Treatment centers available in New Mexico
Turning Point Recovery Center
The Turning Point Recovery Center offers patients opioid detox programs. During this program patients will be given opiate blockers and the focus remains on abstinence. After finishing detox, patients then enter the intensive outpatient treatment program, where they meet for about 9 hours each week. This program includes attendance at 12 step meetings, drug testing, individual counseling, and group meetings. The goal is for the patient to practice their new behaviors in a familiar environment.
Santa Fe Recovery Center
At the Santa Fe Recovery Center, patients have access to a fully accredited drug and alcohol program. The center will help patients going through detox, but it is important to note that this facility works with social detox, so patients will not receive medicine, such as methadone. Here patients will find a healthy balance of traditional therapies, such as CBT and 12 step meetings, along with more holistic treatment options, such as music and art therapy, yoga, and nutrition help.
Life Healing Center
The Life Healing Center not only has programs to help patients recover from drug abuse and dependency, but it also welcomes patients who have suffered trauma. Patients receive individualized treatment plans that combine evidence-based treatment, including group and individual therapy. They also provide ample opportunities for mindfulness and healing as patients receive art therapy and equine therapy.
To find more information
Substance abuse can be a tremendous struggle for both patients and their loved ones. We are here to help patients find the information they need to make informed decisions about treatment options. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at DrugRehab.org.