How to Effectively Combat Opiate Addiction
Opioid abuse has become an epidemic in America, with more than 2.5 million adults suffering from an opioid-based disorder. It is estimated that in 2017, around 64,000 deaths resulted from fatal overdose which highlights the serious nature of this crisis in America.
The reason opioid abuse has risen so significantly in recent years is because there are increasing numbers of people who are initially prescribed opiate-based drugs as painkillers who go on to develop dependence after prolonged use.
Opiate addiction is extremely complex, mainly because the drug has a serious and long term effect on brain function. That said, it is possible to successfully treat someone who has developed an addiction to opiate drugs and it is very possible for an addict to go on to enjoy a happy and healthy life in recovery.
What is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
In rehab centers, medications used for addiction treatment are used in combination with behavioral counseling to address the needs of the individual as a whole. This approach is known as Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT and research has shown it has significant benefits in reducing deaths from fatal overdoses.
According to studies, patients treated with medications are more likely to stay the course in therapy than those receiving alternatives to medical treatment. The medications used in the treatment of opioid addiction include methadone and buprenorphine which are opiate-based. Although there are some who consider this to replace one addiction with another, this has not been proven to be the case.
The way medications work in drug addiction treatment is by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings by restoring balance in the brain’s circuitry. They allow patients to heal physically and mentally as they go through rehabilitation and into recovery and are not likely to trigger dependence.
The three main drugs used in opiate detox are:
- Naltrexone: This is most effective for treating withdrawal when a patient has completed detox at least 48 hours before taking the first dose. Naltrexone is administered by monthly injection by a physician or addiction specialist.
- Buprenorphine: Administered in tablet form or dissolvable film although an injection form may be available soon, buprenorphine also requires a patient to detox for at least 24 to 48 hours before it is effective in reducing withdrawal symptoms.
- Methadone: This is prescribed in liquid form and is usually taken at a specialist methadone treatment center. Methadone works by reducing cravings for opioids and there is no need for patients to detox before starting treatment.
What Should Patients Know About These Treatments?
As with all forms of addiction treatment, it’s important that patients understand what to expect and how they will feature in the foreseeable future. Addiction is a similar condition to diabetes in that it requires consistent care, often for a lifetime and so recovering addicts will need to learn how to use meds to manage cravings and prevent relapse. What this means in real terms is that an addict in recovery will need to manage their condition on a daily basis because if they stop, there is a strong possibility of it returning.
MAT programs for addiction treatment are extremely effective in reducing relapse rates. Research shows that 90% of patients who don’t receive medications to treat addiction go on to relapse within twelve months. These rates drop by as much as 50% for those taking medication for addiction. It is notable that relapse rates return to 90% among individuals who choose to discontinue their medication in recovery.
Research into new treatment methodologies is continuing as medical professionals seek to address the opioid abuse epidemic in America. Some of the new treatments being tested include vaccines that can target opioids in the bloodstream so that they are unable to reach the brain and exert their euphoric influence. Studies into using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) in addiction therapy are currently underway. TDCS is a non-invasive technique that stimulates the brain in specific areas for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
Because of the complexities of opioid addiction, it is unlike any other in treatment terms. Nevertheless, significant strides towards finding effective treatment solutions are being made every day. There are now numerous treatment approaches for opioid addiction both medical and alternative that can be used in combination to treat individuals as a whole. As time goes by and advances are achieved, it will be possible to get a better grasp on America’s opioid epidemic and begin to eradicate the problem.
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