Prescription drug abuse is a common problem in the United States, with the U.S. National Library of Medicine reporting that 20 percent of people in this country have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. While people might use or abuse any kind of prescription drug they’re given, experts suggest that one class of prescription drugs is responsible for much of the plague of addiction that impacts women in the United States. Those drugs are known as opioids, or prescription painkillers that are commonly given to people recovering from a painful experience. Addictions to these drugs can be dangerous, and overcoming those addictions alone might be difficult if not impossible, but there are some programs that have a proven track record of helping women to move forward with their lives. Read on to find out more about how these programs work.
Treating Opioid Addiction
Due to their pain-relieving properties, opioids are the most often prescribed type of prescription drugs. Opioid medications include:
Opioids work by attaching themselves to certain receptors in the brain and spinal cord and blocking pain transmission messages from the body to the brain. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are four major types of opioid receptors in the body, which may explain why all of these drugs can cause slightly different reactions in people who take them. Even though these drugs are all contained within the same drug class, they all work a bit differently within the human body. Some people might respond quite strongly to one type of opioid, and find they’re incredibly attached to that drug from the very first time they take it, while these same people might not respond to another opioid in quite the same way. If people are unlucky enough to obtain a prescription for an opioid that matches their body chemistry perfectly, an addiction can quickly follow.
A number of side effects usually accompany the pain-relieving properties of opioids, including extreme drowsiness, constipation and in some cases, reduced respiration. Additionally, opioids can cause euphoric feelings, and it is for this reason that they are psychologically addictive. People who take very high amounts of these drugs may feel a rush of pleasurable sensations that are difficult to achieve through normal, day-to-day experiences. They may feel sleepy and relaxed, but they may also feel as though the world is a soft and safe place. The pleasure is hard to forget, or get over.
Since the human body is hardwired to respond to opioids, it follows that the human body would also be hardwired to become addicted to these same drugs. While the National Institutes of Health reports that addiction rates to opioids are rather low, occurring in only about 5 percent of people who take these drugs as directed for a year or longer, people who do have these addictions may find that they are difficult to conquer alone, due to the physical dependence their bodies have developed to the drugs they abuse.
People who abuse opioids for long periods of time develop a tolerance for the drugs they take, meaning that they must take higher doses of the drug in order to replicate the effects that were once obtained easily with low doses of drugs. This long-term use can also lead to unpleasant physical symptoms when a person attempts to stop the abuse. Should the person suddenly stop taking the drug, or drastically decrease the dose of the drug taken, the body will display symptoms such as:
- Goose bumps
- Involuntary leg movements
These symptoms can be painful and frightening, and many addicted people choose to simply keep taking drugs instead of feeling these painful symptoms with no end in sight. In a formal program for addiction, however, medications can be used to help ease pain and make the process move faster and a bit more smoothly.
One medication, methadone, can be safely given at the beginning of the recovery process. This drug replicates the action of opioids, without providing any symptoms of euphoria. Someone taking methadone might simply feel calm and collected, instead of painful and stressed, and this might allow the person the clear space needed to work on the addiction issue. Some people dislike taking methadone, however, as it can make people feel sleepy or sedated. These people might benefit from a separate class of medication. One such therapy, known as buprenorphine, also mimics the action of opioids, fooling the brain into believing that it has access to the drugs it craves. Buprenorphine isn’t associated with feelings of sedation, either, so it might be beneficial for people who wish to remain completely clear and focused in recovery. Buprenorphine can’t be given at the very beginning of the therapy process, however, as it tends to render all active opioids inactive within the space of a few moments. Someone could be plunged into sudden and deep withdrawal if they take buprenorphine right away. For this reason, the drug is often provided only when mild withdrawal symptoms are already in place.
Once withdrawal and recovery are well underway, doctors may switch the person to a separate medication known as naltrexone. This drug renders all opioids inactive, meaning that a person on this medication who chooses to relapse to opioid abuse will find that the drugs no longer work at all. This can help to break the psychological component of addiction. Someone who is accustomed to linking opioids with pleasure, who finds that opioids now produce nothing, might be less likely to crave the drugs in the future.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, medication management often begins as soon as the person enters rehab, and staff closely monitors the person for breakthrough side effects. Through this monitoring, staff ensures that the dose of replacement therapy isn’t too small or too large. Over time, as the person becomes more comfortable with therapy and less likely to relapse, the drug dose might be tapered down until the person is taking no medications at all.
Medications might be quite helpful in the fight against opioid addiction, but they aren’t the only tools experts can use to help their clients. In fact, most addiction facilities pair some sort of talk therapy with medication management. The medications allow the people to feel calm and clear-headed, while the therapy helps the people to understand how the addiction was formed and what can be done to control it in the future. This two-pronged attack has been studied multiple times, and in each case, researchers found that medication and therapy were more effective than using just one type of treatment and not the other. For example, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that methadone therapy was helpful in keeping people engaged in their treatment programs, but treatment programs were more effective than simple methadone detoxification alone. Both parts of treatment were needed in order for people to make a full recovery.
One-on-one therapy is often an important part of the recovery process, as people take individual paths to addiction and they need to develop an individualized understanding of what has happened to them and what can be done about it. Often, these sessions focus on practical skill-building, allowing the addict to develop skills that can be used to avoid dangerous scenarios and prevent a relapse. These sessions can also help addicted people to resolve the traumatic issues in their lives that might have led to addiction. For example, according to a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, some programs provide relapse prevention skills and coping skills, but they also provide instruction on coping with stress. For people dealing both with an addiction and a mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, these lessons can be revolutionary.
Programs might also ask addicted people to participate in group therapy sessions. Here, they continue to learn about addiction and how impulses can be controlled, but they also have the opportunity to learn from other people who have also developed an addiction and learned how to control it. The emphasis here is on sharing, supporting and group healing, and for people who have become isolated and fearful during the course of their addictions, it can be revolutionary. Therapists are often careful to prepare their clients for these group meetings, encouraging them to understand what the group is designed to do and how it might help them. Clients are also asked to think about their own barriers to success in a group meeting, and perhaps work on the issues before they attend. This preparatory work can be helpful for people who are inherently distrustful of others, and this work might also help to ensure that the work in the group is successful.
Opiate Rehab Programs at Orchid Recovery Center
When used properly, opioids are a fantastic medical tool, but when allowed to run unchecked, addiction is often the result of a long-term opioid prescription. It’s not your fault. You didn’t intend to become an addict. But you can take matters into your own hands and get the help you need before it’s too late. The Orchid is a Florida rehab facility that specializes in treating the needs of women struggling with substance addictions, as well as unresolved trauma. At The Orchid, we focus on helping women who are ready to reclaim their lives from addiction. Our programs are individualized to suit the needs of each woman who comes to stay with us. Some women are offered medication for their opioid addictions, as well as a standard suite of therapy options, while other women choose to move forward with no medication management whatsoever. We work hard to ensure that women are given a voice in the care they receive, and that they are comfortable with all of the therapies provided as they move forward.
Because the mainstream treatment community was not adequately addressing the needs of women, The Orchid was formed, and through its unique treatments and holistic approach has changed the lives of many women for the better. If you’ve tried other recovery programs and had little success, or you’ve simply been uncomfortable with some of the ideas put forward in traditional male-oriented rehab programs, we might be the solution you’ve been looking for. At The Orchid, we take your recovery very seriously and will do everything we can to make your stay a successful and productive one. Call us today for more information.