If a friend or family member is suffering from opioid addiction, you may be wondering what treatment options are available to help your loved one. Now that opioid abuse and addiction is considered an epidemic in the United States, scientists, addiction specialists, and health professionals are constantly engaged in research to come up with new and better treatment measures to aid in the recovery process. This is great news, as each individual has different needs when it comes to treatment for opioid addiction and therefore may have access to a variety of treatment modalities in recovery.
If you’re helping or plan to help facilitate treatment for a loved one struggling with opioid addiction, keep reading to learn about different treatment options that may be available for your friend or family member.
Treatment Settings and Modalities
As mentioned previously, every individual suffering from opioid addiction is different. Luckily, there are a variety of treatment settings and modalities that can be used during the recovery process.
The first step in the recovery process typically involves the affected individual detoxing from opioids and any other drug they may be abusing. During the detox period, an individual will either stop using opioids “cold turkey” or will taper off opioid use until the drug is completely out of their system. Most individuals detoxing from opioids will experience withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Common opioid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscle pain
- Opioid cravings
- Rapid heart rate
- Shaking or tremors
- Watery eyes
Keep in mind that for some individuals, particularly those with a heart condition, lung issues, diabetes, or a co-occurring mental health disorder, stopping opioids “cold turkey” may not be safe, as certain withdrawal symptoms have the potential to be life-threatening. Consequently, it’s vital to consult a medical professional before your loved one begins the detox process. A physician can evaluate your loved one’s health, severity of addiction, and history of relapse and recommend whether or not they can safely detox at home or should undergo the process with medical supervision.
Depending on where your loved one lives, there may be several options for opioid detox. Discuss these with your loved one’s physician to determine which option may be best for your friend or family member. Detox for opioids can be done:
For some people, detoxing from opioids may be done safely at home. However, as mentioned previously, always consult a physician before beginning this process. If an individual is cleared to undergo opioid detox at home, it’s important that a trusted friend or family member be there for support and to help the person as they go through withdrawal. Some items to have on hand for at-home withdrawal include:
- Water and electrolyte solutions (such as Pedialyte or Gatorade) to avoid dehydration.
- Cool compresses to help with fever.
- Fresh sheets and clothing that can be changed easily if person is sweating excessively.
- If approved by a physician—over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to help with aches and pains.
In a Hospital or Detox Center
Some individuals, particularly those with other health conditions, may be best served going through the detox process under medical supervision. This can be done in a hospital setting or at a detox center. In either of these places, the person withdrawing from opioids will live on-site and be monitored by trained medical staff. In some cases, individuals may be prescribed medications by doctors to help with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or to manage drug cravings. If medications are used, this is typically referred to as medically assisted detox.
In addition to medical supervision, one of the benefits of detoxing in a hospital or detox center is that the individual will be in a controlled environment. For individuals with severe or long-term addiction or who have a history of relapse, detoxing in this type of setting may be necessary.
Keep in mind that detox is only the first step in the recovery process. If your loved one is detoxing in a hospital or detox center, be sure that there is a continued treatment plan in place before they finish detoxing and leave the facility. We’ll discuss continued treatment options below.
In an Inpatient or Residential Treatment Facility
If it’s been decided that your loved one would be best served by enrolling in an inpatient or residential treatment program, they may be able to detox at the inpatient facility, as well. In inpatient treatment programs, individuals live and receive treatment on-site. Typically, individuals will detox at the facility and then simply continue treatment at the same center.
Reputable inpatient treatment facilities should always have a physician and medical staff on site to monitor individuals during detox. Many offer medically managed detox options, as well. If you’re researching inpatient treatment programs, be sure to ask them how they handle the detox process and what they do to ensure your loved one’s health and safety during withdrawal.
Treatment Program Options
There are two primary settings for opioid addiction treatment programs—inpatient and outpatient facilities. As mentioned previously, inpatient treatment programs involve the affected individual both residing and undergoing treatment at the facility. In outpatient treatment, individuals live at home or in sober housing and commute to the facility anywhere from one to seven days a week to participate in treatment programming.
Wondering which treatment option is best? First off, remember that every individual is coming to the recovery process under unique circumstances. Consequently, if you’re trying to decide whether inpatient or outpatient treatment would best serve your loved one, there are several factors to consider, including:
The cost of inpatient and outpatient opioid treatment programs vary widely. Consequently, before an individual enters treatment, it’s important to consider what the person or family can afford. Inpatient treatment tends to be more expensive, as individuals live on-site. However, this can all depend on amenities, location, staff to patient ratio, whether the facility is private or state-funded, etc. When researching programs, speak to staff members about cost and ask if there are certain financing options available such as:
- Payment plans
- Sliding scale fees
Some health insurance plans may fully or partially cover opioid addiction treatment. Before deciding on a treatment option, speak to your loved one’s health insurance provider to determine if their plan covers any portion of addiction treatment and what type of treatment (inpatient or outpatient) is covered.
Severity of Addiction
Just like with hospital detox programs, one of the benefits of inpatient treatment is that the affected individual is in a controlled environment. Consequently, for people with severe addiction or who have a history of relapse, inpatient treatment may be the best option. Many people also begin treatment in an inpatient program and then transfer to outpatient care once their treatment team decides they’re ready to graduate to a less-controlled environment.
Some individuals beginning treatment for opioid addiction may be supporting a family, raising children, or have other responsibilities that affect which type of treatment program they enter. Individuals who cannot be away from family, work, or school for an extended period of time (inpatient programs tend to last anywhere from one to three months but can belonger) may be best served in an outpatient program.
Counseling and Behavioral Therapy
Regardless of which type of program you choose, your loved one will most likely participate in counseling and behavioral therapy as part of the treatment process. There are several different types of therapies, but the primary goal is always to help the individual recovering from addiction learn healthy coping mechanisms, manage opioid cravings, recognize potential triggers that may instigate using, and figure out how to manage everyday stress without drugs.
When researching treatment facilities, ask about the types of therapy they offer for individuals in recovery for opioid addiction. Some common therapies include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT focuses on recognizing negative or harmful thought patterns that contribute to opioid use and addiction. In therapy, individuals can dismantle these negative thought patterns and learn new, healthy ways to handle stress and uncomfortable emotions that don’t involve using drugs or alcohol.
Family and Couples Therapy
As we’re sure you know, addiction does not only affect the person using opioids. Consequently, family and couples therapy is commonly used during treatment to help repair damaged relationships, increase healthy communication, and allow families and couples to learn how to support their loved one during recovery.
In group therapy, individuals receive support from others who are also in the recovery process. This can help improve the person’s self-image while also giving them the experience of being held accountable by their peers. These groups are moderated by a trained counselor who can ask questions to facilitate discussion while keeping the group on-task and safe.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Some treatment programs utilize Medication Assisted Treatment, also known as MAT, to aid opioid addicts in recovery. Medications used in MAT are all approved by the FDA and are meant to help reduce opioid cravings, ease withdrawal symptoms, and block the euphoric effects of opioids to discourage continued use.
There has been some controversy over MAT, as some people feel that using these medications in recovery trades one drug for another. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this is absolutely not the case. In fact, medications used in MAT can help repair brain circuits damaged by opioid addiction, improve outcomes for babies born by opioid-addicted mothers, and make individuals more likely to stay in treatment.
Common medications used in MAT include:
When researching treatment options, ask if they participate in Medication Assisted Treatment. You can also speak with your loved one’s physician to determine if MAT may be right for them and which medications they recommend.
Finally, another option in opioid treatment is participating in 12-Step support groups or similar alternatives. Most treatment facilities have 12-step groups or non-12-step alternatives as part of their treatment program. However, individuals recovering from opioid addiction may choose to continue participating in these support groups for months or years after graduating from a formal treatment program.
For those who want or are open to including spirituality in their recovery, 12-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) may be a good fit. For individuals who prefer a secular approach to recovery, there are non-12-step options such as SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and S.O.S.
If your loved one has a preference, be sure to ask the treatment programs you’re considering about their use of 12-step or non-12-step groups during the recovery process.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.