According to a national study produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the percentage of people who sought care for an opiate addiction rose from 16 percent in 1998 to 20 percent in 2008. While some substances are becoming less popular with addicts and their addiction numbers are declining as a result, opiates remain extremely popular with addicts, and those numbers don’t seem to be dropping anytime soon.
While it might be tempting to call this increase in treatment numbers depressing, there is another way to interpret these findings. More people are realizing that their opiate addictions can be treated successfully, and more people are willing, as a result, to get the help they need to recover. Put this way, these numbers are actually positive, as they demonstrate that more people are fighting back against this addiction than ever before.
Opiate addiction is a deadly foe, and there are many methods that can be used in the fight. In fact, most opiate rehabilitation programs are deeply customized, based on the medical history and the addiction history of the person in treatment. This article will outline the basic concepts of an opiate recovery program, but it’s important to understand that not all opiate rehabilitation programs will contain all of these elements. The treatment program that works for one addict will not always work for another addict. Customization really is key. If, after reading, you’d like to find out more about how we tailor opiate rehabilitation programs to meet the needs of our clients at Axis, please call us. We’d be happy to talk to you about this important topic.
Correcting Chemical Imbalances
Any discussion of opiate rehabilitation must begin with medications. Opiate addiction is caused, in part, by the chemical changes the person has developed as a result of the addiction. The opiates change the way the brain works on a chemical level, and those changes can persist for months or even years. Addicts may feel physical discomfort as well as persistent drug cravings, and this can make recovery difficult. The goal of medication therapy is to help correct the imbalances, helping the addict to feel relaxed, alert and simply “normal,” even though no opiates are present. The medications aren’t intended to provide any sort of recreational benefit. Instead, they’re provided to keep the addict comfortable and alert, so he/she can participate in the recovery process.
Some addicts take prescription medications for a short period of time, and they quickly taper down until they’re taking no medications of any sort. Other addicts feel a resurgence of their addiction symptoms when they taper away from their medications, and therefore, they take the medications on a continual basis for months or even years. Some addicts remain on medication for the rest of their lives.
Some opiate addicts use the drug methadone. According to an article published on Medline, methadone can be provided as a tablet or a liquid, and it’s taken by mouth. Most people are required to take methadone under the direct supervision of a doctor, so they must go to specialized clinics periodically and take the medication while a medical professional watches. This supervised dosing can be difficult for some opiate addicts to deal with, especially if the addict must continue to take the medication for an extended period of time. The medication buprenorphine was designed to help with this issue. Buprenorphine is also provided in a tablet form, but it can be prescribed from a pharmacy and the addict can take it on an unsupervised basis. Taken properly, the drug causes no euphoria at all, but some addicts have been known to crush and snort the pills. People who might be tempted to abuse buprenorphine are sometimes given pills that contain an additional drug known as naloxone. If the user attempts to abuse buprenorphine by crushing the pills, the naloxone will render the buprenorphine inactive, preventing the user from getting any high at all.
New medications for opiate addiction are also being developed. For example, in 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an injectable version of naloxone. This drug can be given in a doctor’s office on a weekly basis, and it provides the user protection from the effects of opiates. If the user attempts to use opiates while under this medical care, the opiates will simply not work. It’s a bit like wearing a shield against a relapse. The user simply can’t get high again.
- How addiction works
- Why the addiction formed
- How old trauma may contribute to addiction
- How impulses can be controlled
- Why thoughts impact behavior
It’s a long to-do list, and sometimes, addicts stay in therapy for a lengthy period of time, until they’ve developed the skills they need to stay healthy for life. While therapy types can vary dramatically, many addiction counselors rely on some form of cognitive behavioral therapy. At its core, this is a hopeful type of therapy that is designed to help the addict tap into the power of the mind. The addict learns to identify negative thought patterns that can lead to depression and a feeling of hopelessness. Then, the addict learns to transform those thoughts into positive messages, before the addict acts upon the negative impulses those negative thoughts can engender. Cognitive behavioral therapy sessions can be intense, involving a significant amount of talking and a large amount of homework, but they can be transformative.
In addition, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some therapists use a system of prizes to help their addicts stay motivated in treatment. Addicts are asked to submit clean urine samples, attend all of their therapy sessions or perform some other therapy-related task, and when they can successfully complete this task, they’re given a reward, such as a bus pass, a month-long gym membership or a coupon to a health food store. These rewards are an incentive for the addict to stay sober, but the rewards themselves also support a healthy lifestyle and they can help the addict develop good habits that can be followed long after the formal therapy program is over.
Opiate rehabilitation programs often use some form of group therapy to help addicts improve. Sometimes these group programs follow the 12-step model espoused by Alcoholics Anonymous, in which a community of addicts comes together to support one another on the journey to sobriety. But this is not, by far, the only type of group therapy that can be used in an opiate rehabilitation program. In fact, some therapists use group sessions as a way to extend the amount of time they devote to their clients. These group meetings are a bit more like classes. According to SAMHSA, therapists can use groups of addicts to teach skills such as:
- Anger management
- Conflict resolution
- Trauma processing
In this model, the therapist is firmly in charge of the group, guiding the discussions, asking questions and encouraging participation. Groups can be small, made up of people who are quite similar in a number of ways, or groups can be large and include a disparate population of people. The addicts learn from the therapist in charge, but they also learn from one another in these discussions. It can be a helpful addition to an addiction recovery program.
Opiate addiction may develop due to a variety of stresses, such as the loss of the job, a death in the family or an underlying medical condition. If the addict is given treatment for the addiction and then returns to a life that still contains these original stresses, the addiction might simply develop once more. The original issue has not been addressed. For this reason, many opiate rehabilitation programs include a wide variety of social components including:
- Housing assistance
- Parenting skills
- Job placement
Opiate rehabilitation programs tend to use one of two models. In one model, the addict lives in a treatment facility and has access to around-the-clock care. All medications are provided on a schedule, and the addict is required to attend group therapy and individual counseling sessions. The environment is completely controlled, meaning that no temptations are present and the addict is asked to focus exclusively on healing from the addiction. In another model, addicts continue to live at home and they access care on an outpatient basis. They may have appointments to keep for counseling or medications, but otherwise, their time is their own to fill.
As mentioned, opiate addiction programs are highly customized to meet the needs of that addict at that time. Some people may benefit from inpatient programs where they’re not asked to make choices and avoid addiction triggers. According to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, some opiate addicts suffer damage to the decision-making portion of their brains due to their addictions. These people may benefit from inpatient programs, as they’re unlikely to make good decisions on their own. But, another study reported in an article on The Partnership at Drugfree.org found that outpatient treatment with medications and therapy could also be effective in opiate addiction, even if the sessions were only held once per week. So what’s the right answer? It depends heavily on the addict and his/her treatment team. Often, by the time the addict is ready to enter an opiate rehabilitation program, he/she has already completed an opiate detoxification program and is therefore already connected with an addiction counselor. This person is ideally suited to help the family make the right treatment choice, based on how well the addict performed in the detoxification program. If the addict sailed through with flying colors and is really motivated to change, an outpatient program may be a fine choice. But, if the addict struggled, revealing underlying trauma or mental illness, or if the addict really doesn’t want to conquer the addiction in the first place, an inpatient program may be a better choice.
When possible, it’s best to let the addict have a say in his/her program. These addiction programs may be essential, but they’re also completely voluntary. The addict can leave at any time. By allowing the addict to help choose the right program, the family helps the addict become invested in that program, and perhaps more motivated to stay enrolled. It’s a great first step on the road to recovery.
Benefits of Inpatient Care
Addictions to opiates can be incredibly difficult to beat without help. The drugs seem to be tailor-made to interact with the human brain, and as a result, the brain may balk at the idea of living a life without access to the drug it once enjoyed. Studies have demonstrated just how persistent an addiction to opiates can be. In one such study, researchers found that asking people addicted to opiates to describe their drug cravings resulted in blood pressure and heart rate increases. These patients seemed to be under physical stress, just because they thought about the drugs. Since the addiction can be so severe, some people may find that obtaining help in an inpatient program is best. Here, they’ll have around-the-clock care that could help them reap big rewards.
In an inpatient program, there are few, if any, opportunities for relapse. No drugs are allowed through the doors, and no impaired people are allowed to visit. As a result, people simply aren’t faced with the choice to use or to abstain. The choice is made for them, as no drugs are available for them to use. For some people, this drug-free stint allows them enough time to build up the skills they’ll need to stay sober, when their formal treatment programs have been completed.
- Sauna or spa treatments
- Animal therapy
- Nature therapy
While inpatient programs ask clients to perform a significant amount of work, they also provide opportunities for rest, healing and rejuvenation. This might be just what addicted people need in order to truly heal from their addictions. At home, people might not be provided with this time, as they may have jobs, children and spouses to attend to. In an inpatient program, the person can focus solely on getting better.
If you’d like to know a little more about how inpatient programs work, and determine if a program like this is right for your opiate addiction issue, please contact us at Axis. Our facility, located in Indian Wells, California, provides luxurious, holistic care for people who are struggling with opiate addictions. We’d like to help you too. Please call today.
If you’d like more information on opiate rehab or the programs we offer here at Axis, give us a call today. We are here to help.