Opioid addiction is skyrocketing in the United States. An estimated 2.1 million people struggle with opioid abuse in the United States alone and approximately 78 people die every day due to complications related to painkillers or other opioids such as heroin. Recent studies suggest that abuse of painkillers has reached epidemic levels.
How Opioid Addiction Can Develop
Opioids are regularly prescribed for chronic pain, and while they are incredibly effective, many people become physically dependent on the drug even when they take it as prescribed. In most cases, opioids are best used for the treatment of short-term pain, such as that experienced with injuries or post-surgery. When taken long-term, users tend to develop higher tolerances to its effects, which can lead to increased dosages. Addiction to these medications can develop quickly, and increased dosages are often accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. These can range in severity from mild to severe and make it difficult for a person to stop using the drug. Once use of opioids reaches this point, it is critical to work with medical professionals to minimize the risk of addiction development.
Effective Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Opioid addiction treatment often utilizes multiple forms of therapy to be most effective. Some of these may include:
- Medication-assisted treatment: One of the most difficult aspects of opioid treatment is the withdrawal phase. In many cases, detox is unsuccessful because the withdrawal symptoms are too overwhelming. With medication-assistance, withdrawal symptoms can be minimized, making initial detox much more comfortable and manageable. Some medications may be taken for an extended period of time and before being gradually tapered, while others may be used to treat more short-term needs, such as medications used to treat a person who has overdosed. There are several medications that are commonly used in the treatment of opioid abuse.
- Residential (inpatient) treatment: Due to the nature of opioid addiction and the risk of relapse, many require inpatient treatment to successfully manage sobriety. Residential treatment provides a safe place to recover from addiction while receiving individualized therapy. These programs tend to be longer, but are generally more successful in helping people maintain long-term sobriety.
- Treatment of co-occurring disorders: For many in addiction treatment, the presence of a co-occurring disorder can greatly affect a person’s chances of successfully overcoming addiction. It is estimated that 6 in 10 people who have substance addiction also struggle with a co-occurring disorder. Many treatment programs implement therapies designed to address mental health disorders and other conditions that may exacerbate addiction.
- Pain Management Methods: Treatment may also involve teaching new methods to manage pain. For many, addiction develops as a result of using a prescription for chronic pain, not because of an intentional misuse of medication. Treatment may incorporate experiential therapies and new methods of pain management. Some examples of this may include acupuncture or yoga. Helping people discover new interests or hobbies that also address a critical issue can make recovery more manageable.
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Overcoming opioid addiction can be difficult and it is unclear how much time the brain may need to recover. Aside from treating the addiction itself, there are numerous therapies that can teach clients tools they can utilize in everyday life.
Therapies that Help with Opioid Addiction
The techniques learned in these therapies can help them achieve goals both in treatment and sobriety. Some of the therapies that are utilized in treatment include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy works by identifying negative thoughts, behaviors, and patterns that contribute to substance abuse disorders. Therapy sessions can help clients identify ways to interact in more positive ways.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): This form of therapy helps clients become more mindful about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Clients are encouraged to consider how present thoughts or feelings may affect the unconscious and undermine physical or mental health.
- Motivational Interviewing: This form of therapy allows a therapist to have non-confrontational interviews to help them discuss their substance abuse and inspire change.
Successful sobriety requires an individualized treatment plan designed to address the unique needs of each person. Recovery may not be successful without the right types of therapy implemented, especially for those who may be long-time users. Understanding a person’s unique needs in treatment is critical to success.