If you’re worried that a friend or family member is addicted to opiates, you’re right to be concerned. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in regards to opiates, largely due to the fact that over 100 Americans die every day from an opiate overdose.
For many people seeking opiate addiction treatment, their biggest fear is that they don’t know what treatment will entail. To help ease their fears, it’s important to know what typically occurs during treatment for opiate addiction and understand that recovery is possible. Keep reading to learn more about the common elements of opiate addiction treatment and what actually happens during the recovery process.
Detox and Withdrawal
For any individual entering treatment for opiate addiction, the first step in treatment will be going through a detox process. During this time, the individual will stop using opiates and allow the body to completely rid itself of the drug. As with the majority of drugs, when an opiate addict stops using opiates, they will most likely experience symptoms of withdrawal. Depending on the type of opiate being used and dosage the person has been taking, withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Withdrawal symptoms may begin in a few short hours after opiate use has ceased and can last for a week or more. In the beginning stages of opiate detox, the individual may begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Excessive sweating
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscle pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Shaking or tremors
- Watery eyes
As withdrawal continues, individuals may experience:
- Abdominal cramps
- Opiate cravings
Opiate withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, and for some people, may be life threatening. Consequently, it’s very important that your loved one speak with a physician before undergoing an opiate detox. Since everyone is different, a medical doctor can determine whether or not it’s safe for your loved one to detox from opiates at home or if they should undergo this process in a medically-managed detox program. Your loved one’s physician may also be able to recommend certain FDA-approved medications that can ease withdrawal symptoms and help reduce opiate cravings. If medication is used during the recovery process, this is referred to as Medication-Assisted Treatment or MAT.
Medication-Assisted Treatment, also known as MAT, is the process of using specific medications to help support opiate addiction treatment. MAT is used in conjunction with behavioral therapy to create what is known as a “whole-patient” approach during treatment. Some individuals have been skeptical of MAT because they’re afraid that using medication in treatment means replacing one drug for another. However, the intention of MAT is to help ease symptoms of opiate withdrawal and reduce psychological cravings in order to allow individuals to focus on their recovery and remain in treatment.
The three most common medications used to treat opiate addiction include:
Methadone lessens or prevents opiate withdrawal symptoms while blocking the euphoric effects (or feeling of being “high”) produced by opiates. This is the only MAT drug approved for women who are currently breastfeeding or pregnant and must be administered in a clinic.
Naltrexone reduces opiate cravings and blocks euphoric effects of opiates. If an individual relapses while taking naltrexone, they will not experience the “high” they once felt. Naltrexone can be prescribed by any medical professional who is able to prescribe medication.
Buprenorphine reduces cravings for opiates. Unlike methadone, which must be administered in a clinic, buprenorphine can be dispensed by physician offices.
Opiate Addiction Treatment Programs
For the large majority of people struggling with opiate addiction, detoxing from the abused drug is only the first step on the road to recovery. To achieve long-term sobriety, most people enter an opiate addiction treatment program that incorporates behavioral therapy, medical oversight, support groups, and case management into the recovery process.
While researching treatment programs, you’ll most likely come across two options:
- Inpatient opioid addiction treatment
- Outpatient opioid addiction treatment
Inpatient vs Outpatient Treatment
In an inpatient opioid addiction treatment program, individuals will both live and receive treatment on-site at a treatment center. This level of care may not be needed for everyone working to overcome opiate addiction. However, for those who are struggling with severe addiction, have a co-occuring mental health disorder, or who have a history of relapse, inpatient opioid addiction treatment may be the best option. This is due to the fact that in inpatient recovery, individuals are in a controlled environment where they can be supported and monitored 24-hours a day, making relapse less likely. They also have access to constant medical care and supervision, which can be particularly helpful during the detox process. Individuals tend to stay in inpatient treatment programs anywhere from one to three months, although some may stay longer.
Outpatient treatment programs may be a viable option for individuals with a less severe opiate addiction or for those who have completed an inpatient program and want to continue the recovery process in a less controlled, but still intensive, environment. In an outpatient program, individuals live at home or in sober housing, and spend anywhere from one to seven days a week in treatment at the recovery center. Individuals tend to stay in outpatient treatment anywhere from one month to over a year.
Which is Best?
Deciding between inpatient and outpatient opiate addiction treatment is a personal choice and can be dependent on a individual’s physical health, finances, and the ability to be away from family, work, or school full-time. Many addiction treatment centers, such as Nexus, have recovery advisors available to discuss your options and give guidance as to which type of treatment program may be best for your loved one. Speaking with your loved one’s physician or an addiction specialist may also help if you’re unsure as to which type of program would give your loved one the best chance of achieving and maintaining sobriety.
Opiate Treatment Modalities
Any reputable treatment program, whether it’s inpatient or outpatient, should offer certain treatment modalities during the recovery process. This is due the fact that opiate addiction does not only affect a person’s physical body, but can also impact an individual’s behavior, social support, family dynamics, self image, and ability to hold down employment or stay in school. Consequently, opiate addiction treatment should address all of these issues in order to help set an individual up for long-term success. Keep in mind that every individual is coming to treatment under different circumstances. That’s why, while researching treatment options, it’s important to consider what treatment modalities you feel will be most necessary to help your loved one obtain and maintain sobriety.
Some opiate addiction treatment modalities to look for include:
- Individualized treatment plans
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- 12-Step groups
- Non-12-Step alternatives
- Medication management
- Psychiatric care
- Life skills training
- Case management
- Educational resources
- Career and educational goal setting
- Group outings
- Mentorship and social support
- Mindfulness training
- Spiritual guidance
- Fitness and nutrition training
- Aftercare planning
For many people, the recovery process does not end with the completion of an inpatient or outpatient opiate treatment program. In fact, upon leaving treatment, many people participate in what we call aftercare. In aftercare, a person is no longer enrolled in a formal opiate treatment program, but is part of groups or partnerships that promote continued support and accountability. This can help an individual maintain their sobriety and receive support during challenging times when they otherwise would have turned to drugs.
Some examples of aftercare include:
Sober housing is a living arrangement (usually a series of apartments or large group home) specifically designed for sober individuals in the recovery process.
Sober mentors are hired professionals that provide support and accountability and help a person maintain sobriety. They may serve as a sober companion at events, monitor adherence to medications, confirm attendance at work, school, or therapy, and can communicate any necessary information to parents or family members.
12-Step or 12-Step-Alternative meetings
Many recovery centers include 12-Step or 12-Step-Alternative meetings as part of their treatment program. Once an individual leaves treatment, they can continue to be a part of these groups, whether at the treatment center or a new location. Those recovering from opiate addiction in particular may be drawn to Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or any NA-Alternative.
Opiate treatment program alumni groups
Some opiate treatment programs have alumni groups that help foster community and continue to support those who have undergone treatment at their facility. Although every alumni group is different, some offer holiday gatherings, alumni 12-Step groups, mentorship programs, alumni outings, and more.
If you’re seeking opiate addiction treatment for a friend or family member, be sure to ask about their aftercare options. Also, keep in mind that for some individuals, recovering from opiate addiction is a lifelong process. Your loved one may need to continue aftercare services for their entire life, which is never something that they should feel ashamed of.
As mentioned previously, opiate addiction can be very dangerous. Luckily, as we’ve discussed, treatment for opiate addiction is available and recovery is possible. If you’re concerned that a friend or family member is struggling with opiate addiction, don’t wait to get them the help they need. Speak to a trusted Nexus recovery advisor today. We’re here to answer questions and give input as to what type of opiate addiction treatment program may be best for your loved one.
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.