Understanding Opiate Addiction and the Treatment Options

opiate addiction

What are Opiates?

‘Opiate’ is an umbrella term encompassing both prescription opioids such as codeine, hydrocodone and fentanyl, and illegal substances including opium and heroin. They contain naturally occurring analgesic alkaloid compounds found in poppy plants. After alcohol they account for are mankind’s most widespread drug problem. Opiates are used for their euphoric effects. They release endorphins in the brain which reduces pain and anxiety and triggers pleasure and happiness. They can be taken in numerous ways including orally, by smoking, snorting or injecting which gives the quickest and most intense effect. There are several treatment options for addiction to opiates.

Medicinal Treatment during Detoxification

Methadone and Buprenorphine are both common pharmaceutical tools used to treat opiate addiction. Methadone treats both the cravings for opiates and the withdrawal symptoms during the detoxification process. Buprenorphine is easily tolerated by patients and can be effective in reducing opiate cravings. Withdrawal effects from opiates can be extremely unpleasant, ranging from vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, insomnia, fatigue and confusion. It is therefore advised that you do not try and come off opiates of your own accord but seek professional help. Detoxification should take place in a care facility so that you can be looked after properly.

Deciding on Follow-up Treatment

Usually detoxification alone is not an effective treatment for opiate addiction. Following the process relapse is common due to the fact that the person suffering from addiction does not have any other coping mechanism for dealing with problems in their life. Therapy is a vital part of addiction treatment. In order to decide which kind of follow-up treatment is most suited, questions may be asked of the patient about how long their addiction has been going on and how they usually secure their supply of the drug. A suitable treatment plan can then be tailored to the individual.

Residential Rehab

If the patient has come from a lifestyle where many of their friends are addicts and they cannot escape from a drug ridden environment, it may be best for them to attend a residential rehab facility. This eliminates temptation related to their everyday life by requiring them to live with those recovering from addiction, fighting the same fight as they are, rather than those who are still in the midst of addiction. They are in a close community with support and medical assistance always on hand. This gives the chance for underlying mental illnesses to be treated.

Outpatient Therapy

If the person recovering from opiate addiction has a strong support network at home, such as family, and has no dangerous underlying medical problems after detoxification, it may be possible for them to receive outpatient therapy. This program will vary for each individual but can involve both individual and group therapy with a counsellor once or multiple times a week. Ongoing therapy is crucial to prevent relapse and provide effective coping skills for the patient. Rehab of this kind can typically last any time from 30 to 90 days and usually the longer the treatment lasts, the better the outcome.

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