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 home environment, upbringing, and trauma. But the addiction exacts painful costs during withdrawal: Intense anxiety. Persistent vomiting. Profuse sweating. Insomnia. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 40 – 60 percent of those afflicted with addiction turn back to opioid use as a form of self-medication.
Medically-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction is a form of therapy which uses FDA-approved medications to improve a person’s rate of successful recovery. To help reduce the risk of relapse, therapists use a combination of medications to curb cravings from volatile opiates. MATs also includes one-on-one and group counseling sessions.
Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Unique treatment options are critical to the long-term success of those battling opioid 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 still does not 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, so that their chances of successful recovery increase. Medically-assisted treatment with Buprenorphine exhibits only mild opioid effects.
The most common types of medications used in MATs are:
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 supplement their physical recovery with mental and emotional stability.
Suboxone is a brand-name prescription medicine that contains the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone. Doctors use it to treat adults who suffer from opioid dependency. A 2015 study conducted by Harvard University determined that Suboxone with counseling vastly increases the probability that an individual will achieve opioid abstinence during active treatment, compared to only counseling alone.
No, this is a misconception. Medically-assisted opiate treatment programs transition people from opioid 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. This higher chance of abstinence decreases use of illegal drugs, reduces overdose mortalities, and results in a 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 both Suboxone and counseling allows someone to return to normal day-to-day functions. When users stop “cold turkey,” their tolerance starts to drop for opioids, 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: if they use the same quantity their body once tolerated, they could die due to their new intolerance.
No treatment is fail-safe, but medically-assisted treatment has been proven to be more reliable and sustainable for true recovery. Select an addiction clinic that will collaborate with you to design the best program for your addiction and life goals. Remember that the best approach is a customized one. Ask if the facility has additional specialists like counselors and chiropractors who can provide a holistic approach to recovery.
Author: Dr. David Kushner, Medical Director at Brightside Clinic
Brightside Clinic treats addiction to heroin and opiates with rehabilitation clinics in Northbrook, Tinley Park, and North Aurora (Illinois).
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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 patients suffering from addiction. In his eighteen 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.