Opioids are frequently used for pain management but can be highly addictive. For some, opioids produce a sense of euphoria that is so intoxicating they find it hard to quit. The addiction can stem from other underlying issues like the environment, upbringing, and trauma. Intense anxiety. Persistent vomiting. Profuse Sweating. Insomnia. These are just a few of the symptoms people recovering from opioid addiction experience as they go through withdrawal. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 40 - 60 percent of those afflicted with addiction relapse and turn back to drug and opioid use as a form of self-medication.
Medically-assisted treatment for opiate addiction is a form of therapy utilizing FDA-approved medications to improve a person's success of recovery. To help reduce the risk of a relapse, therapists use a combination of medications to curb cravings from volatile opiates. Often medically-assisted treatment includes one-on-one counseling.
Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Unique treatment options are critical to the long-term success of those battling opiate addiction and striving for improved quality of life.
One of the main advantages of medically-assisted treatment is that it can fulfill an individual’s craving, but cannot be taken to achieve the full effect of an opioid — this makes it difficult to abuse. This method can be used to wean a person off of opioids, to increase their chances of a successful recovery. Medically-assisted treatment with Buprenorphine exhibits only mild opioid effects.
The most common types of medications used in medically-assisted treatment for opiate addiction:
Side effects of these medications may include nausea, vomiting, constipation, and irritability. It’s also important to note that the patient should undergo behavioral therapy to ensure they are making the most of this type of treatment.
Suboxone is a brand name prescription medicine that contains the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. It is used to treat adults who are dependent on opioids. A 2015 study conducted by Harvard University determined that Suboxone with counseling vastly increases the probability an individual will achieve opioid abstinence during active treatment versus counseling alone.
No, this is a misconception. Medically-assisted opiate treatment programs transition people from opiates or heroin addiction to safer, long-term maintenance of opiate addiction. For many, including those who have tried and relapsed, medically-assisted treatment with Suboxone (or buprenorphine) provides hope for a lasting recovery. Research from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has proven that medically-assisted treatment with buprenorphine (the active ingredient in Suboxone) at least triples rates of opioid-abstinence outcomes, decreasing the use of illegal drugs, reducing overdose mortalities and resulting in a much higher retention rate for treatment.
The truth is that this treatment option doesn’t rely solely on medication — supportive counseling options are included in the treatment plan. Treatment with Suboxone and counseling allows someone to return to normal day-to-day functions. When users stop “cold turkey,” their tolerance starts to drop for opiates, which in turn reduces the quantity the brain can absorb without overdosing. When an individual recovering from addiction relapses and returns to using opioids, they have a high mortality risk because they may use the same quantity they did before their tolerance dropped and could overdose and die.
No treatment is fail-safe, but medically-assisted treatment has been proven to provide a more reliable and sustainable option for true recovery. Select an addiction clinic that will collaborate with you to design the best program based on your addiction and your life goals. The best approach is a customized one. Inquire if the facility has additional specialists like counselors and chiropractors that can provide a holistic approach to recovery.
Author, Dr. David Kushner, Medical Director
About Dr. Kusher
Dr. David Kushner is board certified in Addiction Medicine and Internal Medicine. After receiving a degree in Engineering from Michigan State University in 1990, Dr. Kushner received his Medical Degree at Midwestern University in 1997 and completed an Internal Medicine Residency at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in 2000. He has practiced Hospital Medicine for eighteen years, much of that time, treating Addiction patients. In his 17 years as a practicing physician, Dr. Kushner has treated addiction wherever it surfaces – in the intensive care units of leading hospitals, in emergency departments, and now in the long term management of patients struggling with this disease.
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