Opioid Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Programs
Opioid abuse and addiction touches the lives of thousands of Massachusetts residents and their loved ones each year. Recovering from opioid addiction is possible. Treatment for opioid addiction focuses on getting residents sober and providing them with the tools they need to stay sober for a successful future in recovery.
Opioids are a class of drugs that are commonly misused for their effects. Although some opioid drugs are legally prescribed to treat acute and chronic pain, they can also become addictive when taken in any way other than prescribed.
- taking higher doses than prescribed
- taking doses more frequently
- crushing and snorting opioids
- smoking opioids
- mixing opioids with other substances (e.g. alcohol)
- taking opioids for longer than prescribed
In 2018, over 10 million people aged 12 and older in the United States reported misusing prescription opioids in the past year. Prescription opioids, and illegal opioids like heroin, are widely abused and have contributed to the deaths of nearly 500,000 people in the U.S. since 1999.
This has earned substance use disorders involving opioids the term “opioid crisis” and “opioid epidemic.”
Opioid use disorders (OUD) can severely disrupt a person’s health, their relationships, and affect mood. Addiction is both a mental and physical illness that can be difficult to overcome without professional substance abuse treatment.
Opioid treatment programs (OTP) can help people stop using opioids and begin healing from the effects of drug addiction. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made it hard for many people to seek help for drug abuse issues, most rehab centers remain open and continue to offer treatment for opioid use disorders.
Through a structured and supportive treatment approach, addiction treatment programs provide people with the tools they need to stay sober and begin rebuilding a healthier and more fulfilling future in addiction recovery.
What Are Opioids?
Opioids (formerly known as opiates) are a class of depressant drugs that can cause sedative and pain-relieving effects. Some opioid drugs, such as morphine, are naturally occurring. Others, such as heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl, are fully or partially synthetic.
Prescription opioid drugs are commonly prescribed to treat acute and chronic pain. They work in the body by binding to opioid receptors on nerve cells and in the brain. They also act on certain brain chemicals, like dopamine. This causes users to feel a sensation of relaxation and pleasure.
Opioids are known to have a high potential for misuse and addiction, however. In recent years, federal and state governments have placed restrictions on how and when opioids can be prescribed. This comes in the wake of a devastating crisis of fatal drug overdoses involving prescription opioids like oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).
Other prescription opioids include:
- oxymorphone (Opana)
- fentanyl (Duragesic, Abstral)
- buprenorphine (Suboxone)
The past several years have seen a stark rise in drug overdoses involving heroin, which is illegal in the United States, and fentanyl—which can be up to 100 times more powerful than heroin, and more deadly in small amounts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), up to 80 percent of people who use heroin report first misusing prescription opioids. The profound shift is believed to be explained in part by its wider availability and cheaper cost.
After people have run out of their opioid prescriptions, those who have become addicted may turn to cheaper drugs like heroin. This can be very dangerous.
Buying opioid drugs from a drug dealer carries a high risk of the drugs being mixed with other substances, like fentanyl. This can increase the risk of life-threatening overdose and other serious health consequences.
Dangers Of Opioid Abuse And Addiction
Taking high doses of opioids, or mixing them with other substances, can have harmful effects on a person’s health and well-being.
Taking high doses of opioids may slow a person’s breathing, and in severe cases can lead to hypoxia. This condition can cause long-term psychological effects, as well as permanent brain damage, coma, and death.
Since 2007, opioid overdoses have been on the rise across the United States, but especially in the New England region.
Risk factors for opioid overdose include:
- taking heroin (as this can sometimes be mixed with the highly potent fentanyl)
- taking prescription opioids in high doses or very often
- taking multiple drugs at one time (e.g. alcohol, benzodiazepines)
- injecting or snorting opioids
An opioid overdose can be reversed with quick treatment. The standard tool for reversing an opioid overdose is naloxone, or Narcan. This can block the effects of opioids when administered.
Drug addiction can also make people engage in risky behaviors. These could include needle-sharing (for injection) which increases risk of infectious diseases, buying unregulated drug supplies (e.g. heroin from a drug dealer), or seeking out more potent opioids like fentanyl.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
Seeking treatment for opioid addiction can be life-saving. The state of Massachusetts is home to several different types of opioid treatment programs. This includes inpatient and outpatient treatment options.
The best way to determine which type of treatment program may be most suitable for yourself or a loved one is to contact your doctor or an opioid addiction rehab center. A medical professional can perform a clinical evaluation to create a personalized treatment plan.
Overcoming opioid addiction may require treatment at multiple levels of care, beginning with detox.
Opioid Withdrawal And Detox
Taking opioid drugs for more than a few weeks—even when prescribed by a doctor—can cause the body to develop drug dependence. This is your body adjusting to the presence of the drug in your body.
Drug dependence can be both physical and psychological, and may cause the body to experience uncomfortable symptoms within a few hours of your last dose. This is known as withdrawal.
Early signs of opioid withdrawal include:
- muscle and bone pain
- cold flashes and goosebumps
- sleep problems
- diarrhea and vomiting
- uncontrollable leg movements
Opioid withdrawal isn’t generally dangerous, but it can be highly uncomfortable. In addition, certain symptoms of withdrawal—such as excessive vomiting and diarrhea—may also dehydrate the body, which can be dangerous without external support.
For these reasons, medical experts strongly encourage that addicted individuals enter a medically supervised detoxification program.
Medical detox programs offer 24-hour supervision and support within a safe and quiet environment. Detox professionals may administer certain medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms, reduce drug cravings, and prevent relapse.
Medication usage will vary by treatment providers, but some include methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and naltrexone.
These programs may last between three to 10 days, depending on each patient’s needs. After completing detox, further treatment within an inpatient or residential drug rehab program is highly encouraged.
Inpatient Treatment For Opioid Addiction
Getting sober is only the first step of overcoming opioid addiction. When addiction has taken over your life, it can be difficult to imagine a future where opioids don’t play a central role in your daily life.
Residential treatment programs are the most effective type of treatment for overcoming drug abuse and addiction.
Residential rehab—or inpatient treatment—involves living within a treatment facility for a predetermined period of time, where residents have access to 24-hour medical and behavioral health support and case management.
This level of support and structure can be crucial for people in early sobriety to avoid returning to their former drug of abuse.
Inpatient and residential rehab programs may incorporate an array of OTP services to help individuals overcome the physical, mental, and emotional effects of opioid addiction.
This may include:
- Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapies—such as cognitive behavioral therapy—can be useful to change a person’s attitude about their drug use, increase their willingness to participate in treatment, and teach useful recovery-based skills. This can also teach residents supportive strategies for managing stress in recovery.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment: Certain medications have shown to be effective at helping former opioid addicts maintain their sobriety by reducing drug cravings and easing lingering withdrawal symptoms. Common medications used in MAT include Suboxone and methadone.
- Dual Diagnosis: Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are common among people who struggle with substance abuse. Dual diagnosis treatment treats all mental health and substance use conditions simultaneously through mental health counseling, medication management, and substance abuse treatment.
- Continuing Care Services: Recovering from addiction isn’t a quick process. In recognition of this, it can be important to develop a long-term treatment plan for continued care. Continuing care may involve attending outpatient counseling, peer support groups, and continuing to attend medication-assisted treatment on an outpatient basis.
Outpatient Treatment Programs
Outpatient treatment is a less intensive form of treatment that doesn’t involve living in a rehab center for care. Instead, a person may attend treatment at a rehab center, or meet with outpatient treatment providers, for a certain amount of time each week, depending on the recommendations of their treatment team.
There are several different types of outpatient treatment options, including:
These outpatient treatment programs vary in their length, structure, and how much of a time commitment they require.
How To Know If You’re Addicted
It can be difficult for people with addiction to admit to themselves that they have a drug abuse issue. This is true for addiction to any substance, whether it’s alcohol, opioids, or certain behaviors. Admitting you have a problem is also an admission that you might need help—which can be scary.
The primary sign of opioid addiction is being unable to stop your drug use. On a psychological level, someone who’s addicted to opioids may feel strong urges to continue their drug use.
On a physical level, someone who’s addicted may be unable to stop taking opioids without experiencing withdrawal.
If you’re questioning whether you’re addicted to opioids, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you rely on opioids to get through the day?
- Are you taking opioids exactly as prescribed by a doctor?
- Is your opioid use affecting other areas of your life, such as your ability to work, go out with friends, or complete other daily tasks?
- Is your opioid use having harmful effects on your physical or mental health?
- Have any friends or family members expressed concern about your opioid use?
- Do you find yourself avoiding other people out of embarrassment, shame, or guilt about your drug use?
- Do you find yourself experiencing withdrawal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, cold flashes, severe drug cravings) within hours after your last dose?
Addiction doesn’t look the same for everyone, but no one is immune. Asking for help is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one is struggling with opioid abuse, consider seeking treatment as soon as possible.
Begin Opioid Addiction Recovery At Spring Hill Recovery Center
Opioid addiction is a dangerous disease that can wreak havoc on a person’s body, mind, and relationships. Struggling with addiction, or watching a loved one fall deeper into the hold of addiction, may make you feel scared, hopeless, and alone.
At Spring Hill Recovery Center, we believe that recovery from opioid addiction is possible. To find treatment for opioid abuse or addiction in the Greater New England area, look no further than our accredited addiction treatment center in Ashby, Massachusetts.
Our rehab center helps people conquer addiction and learn the tools to help them stay sober in long-term recovery. We offer treatment of opioid use disorders through our residential rehab and intensive outpatient programs. Spring Hill also coordinates with nearby detox centers and sober living homes.
If you’re traveling to Spring Hill from outside of Massachusetts, our staff can help you make travel arrangements and verify your insurance coverage.
Overcoming an addiction to opioids isn’t easy, but it is possible. One day at a time. To learn more about Spring Hill’s opioid addiction treatment programs and the types of treatment services we offer, call us today.