One of the most serious types of substance use disorders involves opioids. Although these drugs are commonly prescribed legally by doctors to treat chronic pain associated with injuries and other medical conditions, they are highly addictive and can lead to misuse in some people. However, even after a person recognizes that they have a serious problem with opioids, it’s not safe to simply go cold turkey because the symptoms of withdrawal are often unpleasant and can be dangerous.
In spite of these challenges, it’s possible to overcome opioid addiction. The best treatment options are comprehensive to help with the withdrawal symptoms and cravings for the drug. Medication-assisted treatment is one of the strongest tools available in drug rehab for opioid addiction.
How Effective Is Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction?
Whether a person struggles with substance use disorder from opioids that were medically prescribed or illegally obtained, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is highly effective. It has repeatedly been proven in clinical settings to help curb the typical cravings for the drug and dependence that are so common in individuals who are addicted to opioids. MAT is used during the detox process when all traces of the drug is eliminated from the person’s system.
While many people find that they need inpatient rehab treatment for their opioid addictions, that’s not always the case when MAT is used. Outpatient rehab can be just as effective thanks to medication management. MAT can help people recover from their substance use disorder and return to being productive members of society. MAT is effective in the following areas:
• Helping people to survive
• Enabling people to remain in treatment for a longer time
• Decreasing the use of illegal opioids and criminal activity
• Increasing people’s ability to gain employment or keep their current employment
• Improving the outcomes of pregnant women who suffer from opioid addiction
MAT can also help reduce the risk of contracting diseases like hepatitis C and HIV because it can prevent a potential relapse.
What Types of Medications Are Used in Treating Opioid Addiction?
A few different types of medications are commonly used to treat opioid addiction. Methadone has long been used in clinics and is perhaps best known for treating heroin addiction, in particular. It can help to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. However, it can also be addictive itself, so it may not always be the best treatment option for everyone.
Buprenorphine is a medication that helps to ease the cravings associated with opioid addiction. However, it triggers the same parts of the brain that are affected by opioids, which can lead to the same feelings of being high that a person gets out of their substance use disorder. The drug is prescribed by doctors to help alleviate cravings for opioids and is administered as an injection on a monthly basis, through thin tubes inserted under the skin that can last for six months or under the tongue.
This medication is often given to individuals battling opioid addiction to help them taper off from the substance. At the same time, relapses are common with Buprenorphine, so it’s possible that people trying to curb their addiction might need an alternative treatment. Some do well taking this drug while others might need extra help or a different medication.
Naltrexone is one such alternative medication for treating opioid addiction. Unlike Buprenorphine, it doesn’t activate the receptors in the brain that respond to opioids. Instead, the effects of the drug are completely blocked. This means that when a person takes this medication, they won’t get that typical high feeling or experience any cravings. It can be administered once monthly as an injection or orally.
Naloxone is another medication that can be used to help individuals who abuse opioids. However, its use is strictly for emergency situations only such as in the event of an overdose or respiratory arrest. It doesn’t help to treat an addiction to opioids, but it can reverse an overdose and reset the receptors in the brain that react to the drug.
How Successful is Opioid Addiction Treatment?
The specific treatment program created for a person addicted to opioids can vary depending on the severity of their addiction and how long they’ve been using. Other factors such as co-occurring mental health disorders can also play a part in determining how successful a person might be with their treatment. Many individuals struggling with dual diagnosis have a more difficult time, but treatment can be tailored to every person’s own needs.
When treatment includes a combination of things such as MAT, therapy and ongoing treatment, there’s a much higher chance of successfully overcoming a substance use disorder to opioids.
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