UNITED STATES—According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid use disorder affects over 2.5 million people and contributes to the death of over 28,000 individuals each year. The opioid epidemic is a far-reaching one and, unlike other drug problems, does not discriminate in who it afflicts. From the humble lower class to the elite upper class, and from city dwellers to country residents to suburbanites, everyone is at risk of either falling victim to opioids or losing a loved one to their addictive properties.

Though many stories of opioid addiction end in death, yours or your loved one’s doesn’t have to. Armed with the right information regarding the types of opioid treatment options and the best ways to detox from drug addiction, you or your loved one can safely return to a fulfilling and drug-free life.

Opioid Treatment Options

For most victims of opioid use disorder, the path to recovery involves a multifaceted approach. That approach typically involves medicated assisted treatment and behavioral therapy and may be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Despite the media portrayal of opioid treatment, which convinces non-sufferers that addicts are exchanging one dangerous drug for another, medication-assisted treatment is one of the most effective treatment options for opioid addiction. Opioids are some of the hardest substances from which to recover, as the withdrawal is so painful that most addicts would rather continue using than risk going through it.

Withdrawal symptoms are the result of the body’s dependence on opioid drugs. Opioids attach to the receptors of the brain and body that regulate pain and emotion. The body produces natural opioids — otherwise known as “endorphins” — that cause it to feel good naturally. However, when opioids come into the picture, the body stops producing endorphins and relies on the drugs to produce that “high.” When an addict stops supplying his or her body with the feel-good drug, endorphins don’t automatically generate to compensate for the loss. Rather, the body goes into an intense state of depression characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Uncontrollable yawning
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Goosebumps
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Blurred vision / dilated pupils

Medication-assisted treatment helps the body readjust to “normalcy” — normalcy being life without drugs — by slowly weaning the drugs out of the system. Not only does this meticulous weaning process help to alleviate or even prevent debilitating withdrawal symptoms but also, it can keep the body from going into shock which, for long-term addicts, may be fatal.

Behavioral Therapy

Treating opioid addiction goes much deeper than helping individuals detox from the drug. For many addicts, addiction began or was perpetuated by certain triggers, such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Those triggers don’t just disappear when a person becomes sober, and a recovering addict will have to learn to cope with them — and the cravings they create — in healthy ways. Behavioral therapy and other forms of counseling are designed to give recovering opioid addicts the tools they need to do just that. Some common types of behavioral therapy treatment centers offer include the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy teaches addicts how to properly cope with stressful situations and how to identify and avoid certain situations that may lead to relapse. It also strives to undo years of bad habits and learned behaviors that fed the addiction.
  • Family Therapy: Addiction does not just affect the addict — rather, it affects everyone around him or her. During the years of opioid abuse, the addict may have acted in ways that damaged relationships with close friends and loved ones. Though the damage cannot be undone, family therapy helps members work through the hurt and rebuild on a stronger foundation.
  • 12-Step Support: In a 12-support group, individuals learn to accept the fact that they’re powerless over their addiction, but they have the ability to manage their life post-recovery.
  • Life Skills: Addiction is powerful. In fact, it is so powerful that it renders a person incapable of performing the most basic of tasks, such as cooking, bathing, and other everyday chores most take for granted. A recovering addict must relearn how to perform these basic life skills without drugs or alcohol, along with other more comprehensive skills, such as accountability, financial management, stress management, and intrapersonal and communication skills.
  • Aftercare: Aftercare is essential for recovering addicts, as it helps them stay on track post-detox and therapy. Addiction is a lifelong battle, but with the right forever-team on one’s side, he or she can overcome it and stay clean for life.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Treatment

Addicts have the option of undergoing therapy on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Both have their merits.

Outpatient treatment is less expensive and therefore the preferred choice for recovering addicts and their loved ones. On an outpatient basis, a recovering addict can go about his or her daily routines, which may include going to work, caring for his or her children, and spending time with family. However, patients who get treatment on an outpatient basis are at a greater risk of falling victim to their cravings and triggers. For this reason, outpatient care is only recommended for those whose addiction is not that severe.

Inpatient treatment, on the other hand, is costly and takes people away from their lives for anywhere between 30 and 90 days. However, it also removes addicts from potentially harmful situations, which drastically reduces their risk of relapse. Inpatient treatment is also much more intensive and focused, which sets recovering addicts up for a better chance of attaining lifelong sobriety.

Recovery from opioid addiction is possible. With the proper care and support, you or your loved one can get on the path to life-long health and sobriety.