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What Kind of Treatment Will I Get for an Opiate Addiction?

Opiates are drugs derived from the opium poppy, such as heroin, morphine and codeine. Opioids are synthetic drugs that imitate them, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, or one term is used to describe all drugs in the class. Because they affect the body in similar ways, treatment is generally similar for addiction to any opiate or opioid.

Detoxifying from Opiates

What Kind of Treatment Will I Get for an Opiate Addiction?

The first step to treating addiction to any substance is detoxification

The first step to treating addiction to any substance is detoxification, or detox. During detox, patients undergo withdrawal under medical supervision and are kept safe and as comfortable as possible. Harvard Medical School notes that opiate withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, muscle pain, tremors, hot or cold flashes, agitation, and sometimes nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. The duration and intensity of withdrawal depends on the dosage and type of drug. The authors note that withdrawal from heroin may last about a week.

There are a number of medications that may be used to treat opiate withdrawal. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that methadone, clonidine and buprenorphine all may be useful. Methadone is the medication most commonly prescribed. Clonidine reduces most, but not all withdrawal symptoms, so additional medications may be used if necessary.

Counseling for Opiate Addiction

After detox has been completed, patients are ready for comprehensive addiction treatment. Many addiction treatment components are similar for people addicted to a wide range of substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes, however, that no one treatment is the right choice for every patient. In addition to the characteristics of the substance, personal patient characteristics also affect which treatment settings and services are likely to be the most effective.

Counseling and education are a large part of most addiction treatment programs. Counseling may take place in both individual and group settings. Sometimes family or couples counseling is also a part of the treatment protocol.

During treatment, clinicians and patients will work together to meet many goals. One of the first is to resolve ambivalence and increase motivation to change. Mental and logistical obstacles to change will be identified and addressed.

Education is important so that patients will better understand what is happening physically and what to expect as recovery and healing progress. Patients generally learn about protracted withdrawal, and common emotional states they may experience, such as anhedonia, or lack of joy. If patients realize that these states are common and will resolve as the brain heals, it can help them to face them with less anxiety.

Identifying Relapse Triggers and Co-existing Conditions

A significant element of treatment is the identification of relapse triggers and learning how to avoid and address them. Relapse triggers or cues are sensory or emotional states that trigger cravings and the desire to return to substance use. Cravings may be triggered by sounds, sights, or smells associated with drug use or with emotions that would have ordinarily prompted it.

Patients will learn how to identify their personal danger zones. They will also learn relapse prevention skills. These may include such techniques as urge surfing, distraction, anger management, and behaviors that promote relaxation, such as breathing exercises.

Many people who suffer from addiction also experience a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. It is important that any co-existing condition be identified and addressed. The most effective treatment is coordinated and integrated, with clinicians working together and sharing information.

Medication for Opiate Addiction

Medications for opiate addiction can be used not only during detox, but also for ongoing treatment. A SAMHSA publication on medication-assisted treatment lists methadone, levomethadyl acetate (LAAM), buprenorphine, naltrexone, and a buprenorphine-naloxone mixture as possible medications that may be prescribed. LAAM is not currently available in the United States. Most of the drugs help relieve cravings. Naltrexone blocks opioids and opiates from attaching to cell receptor sites.

Many Options are Available

There are many possible options for treating opiate addiction. The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices is a searchable database of programs and treatments that have been studied and validated. Currently, there are more than 350 interventions included. Programs can be sorted by such criteria as the setting in which they were studied and the age, gender, or ethnicity of participants.

If you or a loved one is ready to begin treatment for opiate addiction, we can help you find a comprehensive quality program that meets your needs. Our helpline is toll-free and staffed 24 hours a day with consultants who are compassionate and knowledgeable and can answer your questions. They can even check your health insurance coverage for you if desired, at no cost or obligation. Addiction is a serious, but treatable disease. Why not call now and take a step toward a new life?