The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline and How to Shorten It

The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline and How to Shorten It

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Lower Opiate Use When Prescribed Buprenorphine

Opiate dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when opioid use suddenly stops. The opiate withdrawal timeline depends on several factors. The type of opioid and body chemistry impact the length and severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal from opiates can be excruciatingly painful and uncomfortable, making it difficult to begin the journey toward sobriety. Interventions such as medical detox help reduce the opiate withdrawal timeline.

After detox, a medication-assisted treatment program (MAT) can assist with lasting sobriety as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Reducing the opiate withdrawal timeline can be the first step in successful treatment for opiate addiction.

 

The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

Depending on the type of opiate abused, including heroin, short-acting prescription opiates, or long-acting prescription opiates, the opiate withdrawal timeline typically starts between eight and 30 hours after the last dose and lasts between four and 10 days. For some people, the opiate withdrawal timeline will be shorter, while for others, it can last as long as a month or more.

The opiate withdrawal timeline depends on factors such as:

  • The amount of opiates in your system at the time of detox.
  • The length and severity of the dependence.
  • The general state of physical and mental health.
  • Genetics and biology.
  • Whether you opt for medical detox or withdraw on your own.

The opiate withdrawal timeline can vary based upon the type of opiate from which a person is withdrawing. Withdrawal from heroin, which is a short-acting opiate, tends to begin within eight to 12 hours of the last dose of the drug. Withdrawal symptoms reach their peak within 36 to 72 hours and then decline significantly after about five days. 1

Withdrawal from a short-acting opiate, such as oxycodone, begins later, within 24 to 36 hours following the last dose. Symptoms peak in about 4 to 6 days and can persist for several weeks.

More mild withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue, a depressed or irritable mood, and sleep disturbances can continue for months after opiate use ceases.

Reducing the opiate withdrawal symptoms can therefore play a critical role in maintaining lasting sobriety.

Symptoms to Expect

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are specific symptoms that may appear during the opiate withdrawal timeline.2

Early symptoms beginning at the start of the withdrawal period may include:

  • Psychological and behavioral effects, such as anxiety and/or agitation
  • Sleep difficulties and yawning
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating

After these symptoms peak within the timeframes described above, the later symptoms in the opiate withdrawal timeline appear: 2

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort, cramping, and diarrhea

Symptoms to Expect

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are specific symptoms that may appear during the opiate withdrawal timeline.2

Early symptoms beginning at the start of the withdrawal period may include:

  • Psychological and behavioral effects, such as anxiety and/or agitation
  • Sleep difficulties and yawning
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Runny nose
  • Excessive sweating

After these symptoms peak within the timeframes described above, the later symptoms in the opiate withdrawal timeline appear: 2

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort, cramping, and diarrhea

These symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be intense and produce a debilitating level of discomfort. Fortunately, reducing the opiate withdrawal can make unpleasant symptoms more manageable.

Services for Reducing the Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal from an opiate use disorder involves uncomfortable side effects, but there are services available for reducing the opiate withdrawal. Medical detox is medically supervised withdrawal. It involves a variety of medications that are administered as needed to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and shorten the time it takes to detox. A medical detox program is the first step in the withdrawal process, and this type of program should be followed by ongoing treatment services, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Medications and methods used to reduce the withdrawal timeline include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants
  • Opioid Agonists
  • Non-Opioid Agonists
  • Opioid Antagonist
  • Partial Agonists and Antagonists
  • Tapering Medications
  • Opioid Antagonist
  • Partial Agonists and Antagonists
  • Tapering Medications
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants
  • Opioid Agonists
  • Non-Opioid Agonists

Professionally administered medications to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and shorten the time it takes to detox.  

Those who try to detox from opiates on their own frequently relapse to end the discomfort of withdrawal. 

Medical detox also involves emotional support and can include complementary therapies like massage or restorative yoga to reduce stress. 

Buprenorphine is one of a few medications commonly used during opiate detox. Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opiate, and a partial opioid agonist, which means that while it can produce the euphoric and respiratory depressing effects of opiates, the effects are far smaller than full agonists like heroin and opioid painkillers. Buprenorphine attaches to opioid receptors to reduce the intensity of opiate withdrawal, help normalize brain function and shorten the opiate withdrawal timeline.

Other medications used during opiate detox can treat symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and feelings of agitation and anxiety. Cravings are intense during withdrawal, and while some medications can reduce their severity during withdrawal, cravings can last for weeks or months after detox and can make long-term recovery difficult.

Why Medical Detox is Essential for Opiate Withdrawal

Many people who try to detox from opiates on their own turn back to using very quickly, if only to end the discomfort of withdrawal. People in severe withdrawal can quickly become dangerously dehydrated as a result of severe vomiting and diarrhea.

In addition to reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms and shortening the opiate withdrawal timeline, medical detox provides emotional support during withdrawal. High quality detox programs typically offer complementary therapies like acupuncture, massage or restorative yoga to help reduce stress, ease withdrawal symptoms and promote a higher sense of well-being during withdrawal.

Medical Detox versus MAT

While medical detox programs and MAT may sound similar, they are actually distinct pieces of the recovery process. Medical detox programs involve medically supervised withdrawal from opiates, with medications being used to make withdrawal more manageable by reducing the opiate withdrawal. The goal of medical detox is to rid the body of opiates so that ongoing treatment can begin. Detox programs tend to be short in duration, lasting from a few days to a week.

MAT programs, on the other hand, are ongoing and can last for as long as several years. The aim of medication-assisted treatment is to help a person control cravings and achieve lasting sobriety from opiates. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people who are receiving MAT must also undergo counseling, per Federal regulations.3 MAT is just one piece of a comprehensive treatment plan for an opiate use disorder.

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of patients who took 16mg of buprenorphine per day successfully completed treatment

How Medications are Helpful for Reducing Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Medications used for both medical detox and MAT can be effective for reducing the opiate withdrawal. For example, SAMHSA reports that medications such as buprenorphine and methadone can reduce the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur when stopping opiate use.3

Helping Beyond Detox

Medications can also assist beyond the initial medical detox phase, as they are effective for reducing the opiate withdrawal symptoms that persist after the body is cleared of illicit opiates. For example, a person can feel anxious, depressed, or irritable for months after discontinuing opiate use, but methadone and buprenorphine can reduce opiate cravings and stabilize brain activity so that people in recovery do not turn to drugs to treat these lasting psychological side effects.

These medications tend to be most effective when combined with psychological interventions, such as counseling. Through counseling and psychoeducation, people recovering from opiate addiction can learn strategies for preventing relapse and coping with stressors. They can also begin to resolve underlying issues, such as trauma, abuse, or mental health conditions that have contributed to the opiate use disorder. While medications are effective for reducing the opiate withdrawal by lessening physical symptoms, they cannot cure the addiction or treat co-occurring emotional and psychological issues on their own.

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of patients who took 16mg of buprenorphine per day successfully completed treatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment After Detox

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is the current gold standard for treating opiate dependence and addiction. Medication-assisted treatment involves medications that prevent withdrawal while helping to normalize brain function and block cravings for opiates.

Medication-assisted treatment enables individuals to focus on addressing the issues behind the addiction and can be taken for weeks, months or even years to effectively manage the addiction and help prevent relapse.

Medication is just one component of MAT. The other component is counseling, which is central to ending an addiction to opiates. The combination of medication and therapy helps addicted individuals address a variety of issues behind the addiction and develop essential coping skills for handling relapse triggers.

Detox is Not Addiction Treatment

If you choose to detox from opiates rather than opt for medication-assisted treatment, it’s important to understand that detox is not addiction treatment and does very little to address the critical issues behind the compulsive drug abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Principles of Effective Treatment, addiction is far more complex than physical dependence. It requires comprehensive treatment that involves a variety of therapies to help people end their addiction for the long-term, restore function to their lives and find purpose and meaning in a life free of substance abuse.

Interesting Facts About Medications Used for Opiate Withdrawal

Researchers interested in reducing the opiate withdrawal have conducted numerous studies to assess the medications used in detox and MAT. A 2017 report in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, showed significant findings.4

Statistics on Effectiveness of MAT

In one study, 74 percent of people who received methadone stayed in treatment, compared to 46 percent of those who took buprenorphine.

There is evidence that buprenorphine doses exceeding 32 milligrams per day are linked to greater treatment retention.

A review of 21 studies indicates that buprenorphine doses of 16 to 32 milligrams per day are more effective for retaining people in treatment than daily doses of less than 16 milligrams are.

Benefits of MAT

SAMHSA reports additional facts pertaining to MAT and states there is evidence of numerous benefits associated with this approach:3

  • Reduction in illegal opiate use and criminal activity
  • Better survival rates
  • Greater likelihood of obtaining and keeping a job
  • Fewer problems among babies born to women with a history of opiate abuse
  • Potential reduction in the risk of HIV or hepatitis C

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Of people who received methadone stayed in treatment, compared to 46% of those who took buprenorphine

Medications for MAT

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has also discussed facts pertaining to MAT:5

Methadone

Methadone can reduce the rate at which people test positive for opiates by 33 percent.

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine can lower opiate use by about 14 percent compared to placebo and make treatment retention 1.82 times more likely.

In a study comparing patients who took 16 milligrams of buprenorphine per day to those who detoxed for six days with buprenorphine and then received a placebo, only 25 percent of those taking buprenorphine on an ongoing basis failed to stay in treatment, whereas 100 percent of those in the placebo group were unsuccessful.

While buprenorphine and methadone have received much of the attention for their success with reducing the opiate withdrawal, there are other medications used to treat opiate use disorders.

Naltrexone

According to SAMHSA, naltrexone, which is available via pill and injection, works by blocking the brain’s opiate receptors. This medication is also known to lessen drug cravings.3 Unlike with buprenorphine and methadone, naltrexone is not used during the medical detox process and is instead reserved for MAT after a person completes detox.6

Lofexidine

Also noteworthy is the fact that in 2018, the Federal government approved lofexidine for treating the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal. This medication acts differently than buprenorphine and methadone do, because it is not an opioid, but it can be effective for reducing the opiate withdrawal through its ability to prevent the efflux of norepinephrine, which stimulates the nervous system.6

Using Medications Through Detox and MAT

Based upon the research, medications can be helpful during both the detoxification and ongoing treatment phases for opiate use disorders. When used in medical detox, medications can be effective for reducing the opiate withdrawal and making painful symptoms such as abdominal cramping and muscle aches more tolerable. When used on an ongoing basis in MAT, they can help to control the lasting symptoms associated with opiate cessation, as they make cravings and psychological distress more manageable.

Medications can play a critical role in a comprehensive opiate treatment program that also includes counseling, support groups, and social services. Treatment professionals can work with people in recovery to determine what medications are most effective for reducing the opiate withdrawal and contributing to lasting sobriety.

Resources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202507/
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000949.htm
  3. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5741113/
  5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/medications-to-treat-opioid-addiction/efficacy-medications-opioid-use-disorder
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2018/05/nida-supported-science-leads-to-first-fda-approved-medication-opioid-withdrawal

Tips for Living with an Alcoholic

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, addiction is a family disease. Living with an alcoholic affects the functioning of the family system and leads to unhealthy coping behaviors as family members experience the chaos, negativity and uncertainty that often come with addiction. Living with an alcoholic can be difficult, but here are some tips that will help.

Engage in therapy.

Living with an alcoholic can affect how family members think and behave. It’s common for family members to develop enabling and co-dependent behaviors that can reduce their own sense of identity and well-being and further perpetuate the addiction.

Engaging in individual therapy can help family members learn to cope with the addiction in healthy ways and recognize unhealthy thought and behavior patterns that can lead to deep personal and familial dysfunction. For younger members of the family, who are at greater risk of substance abuse themselves from living with an alcoholic, therapy can be instrumental in preventing unhealthy coping behaviors like detachment or acting out.

Seek support.

Support organizations for families living with an alcoholic offer a safe place to voice fear, frustration, anger and other negative emotions that can cause problems at home and reduce the quality of life of everyone in the household. Support groups like Al-Anon for adults and Alateen for younger family members help reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness that can come from living with an alcoholic. They can also help family members best support their loved one once he or she enters recovery.

Take good care of yourself.

Co-dependent behaviors include neglecting your own well-being in an attempt to ensure your loved one struggling with the addiction is okay. But self-care is essential when you’re living in an environment of substance abuse. Self-care includes taking care of your physical needs, including eating healthy food and getting adequate sleep, along with caring for your emotional needs, such as the need for love, companionship, security and well-being. Putting your needs or those of your children before the needs of your addicted family member will help you better cope with the addiction and the problems it brings to the household.

Create a happy, stable home despite living with an alcoholic.

Addiction can bring negativity and uncertainty to the home. When children are involved, it’s important to create a stable home environment that promotes personal happiness, safety and well-being. Engage in family activities that offer fun and relaxation and try to involve the family member struggling with alcoholism whenever possible. Minimize disruptions as much as possible, such as avoiding arguing with your addicted loved one while he or she is under the influence or continuing with family activities even if your loved one is too drunk to participate.

Leave or consider an intervention.

If you feel that you or your children are unsafe living with an alcoholic, leave. If you need help and support leaving, talk to a trusted family member, counselor, clergy member, or friend.

Even if living with an alcoholic isn’t dangerous, it’s almost always disruptive. If you’ve tried to convince your loved one to get help without success, it may be time to consider an intervention. Interventions are a planned meeting between you and other concerned loved ones and the alcoholic family member. Interventions that are facilitated by a professional interventionist have a 90 percent success rate in getting the loved one to agree to treatment.

Living with an alcoholic almost always causes relationship problems and household dysfunction. Ultimately, addiction almost always gets worse without professional help. There may come a time when you’ve taken all you can handle and done everything you can do. At that time, you’ll have to decide on a course of action. The more support you have when that time comes, the easier it will be to make the choices that are best for you and other family members in the household.

A Lost Generation: Opioids and Young Adults

A Lost Generation: Opioids and Young Adults

This page can be downloaded as a fully designed eBook here.

The U.S. opioid epidemic worsens each year. It currently claims 115 lives every day and impacts countless families in its wake. Between 2015 and 2016, the largest opioid overdose death rate increase occurred among people aged 25 to 34 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Today, opioid abuse is the number-one cause of preventable death among 18-to-35 year-olds.

Here, we look at opioid use among those it affects most: The Millennial generation, which is comprised of today’s 18- to 35-year-olds. We examine why young adults use opioids, how addiction and dependence develop, and how exactly treatment works to help end even a severe opioid use disorder for the long-term.

Why Young People Use Opioids

Young adults abuse opioids for a variety of reasons, including to relieve physical and emotional pain, deal with problems, relax, reduce stress, and have a good time with friends. But addiction almost always has underlying causes–issues that led to the opioid abuse in the first place. Getting to the bottom of these issues is central to successful recovery, because if these aren’t addressed, they will continue to lead to substance abuse.

The underlying causes of addiction are unique to every individual. Some people have multiple issues, and these are often interconnected like a web. Some of the most common underlying causes of addiction include:

Click here for an enlarged version.

Click for illustrated infographic on opioids and young adults

A History of Trauma

Trauma that occurs at any time, but particularly in childhood, is a common cause of addiction down the road. Witnessing or being the victim of traumas like sexual abuse, violence and disaster can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. These include frequent nightmares, flashbacks, anger, fear and insomnia. These issues and the negative emotions that result often lead people to self-medicate with drugs–particularly euphoria-inducing opioids.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress can result from a number of life circumstances, including poverty, abuse, systematic discrimination, family dysfunction, the loss of a loved one or living with medical or mental illness. Chronic stress results in consistently high blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which affects brain function. Persistently high cortisol levels can shrink the brain’s prefrontal cortex, responsible for memory and learning, and increase the size of the amygdala, the stress and fear center responsible for the fight-or-flight response. It disrupts synapse regulation, leading to a loss of sociability and a tendency toward withdrawing from others. While opioids may seem to reduce stress due to the euphoric effects, heroin and painkillers actually reduce your ability to cope with stressful situations and increase your stress response in the long run.

Mental Illness

Anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental illnesses dramatically reduce an individual’s quality of life. When a mental illness co-occurs with a substance use disorder, it’s known as a dual diagnosis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around half of all people who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder also have a mental illness, and half of those diagnosed with a mental illness also have a substance use disorder.

Considering that one in five people between the ages of 18 and 25 reported a mental illness in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, it’s not surprising that the prevalence of dual diagnosis is high among Millennials. Opioids worsen mental illnesses in the long run, and misuse can even cause mental illness where one didn’t previously exist.

Missing Coping Skills

Those suffering from addiction usually have a reason why they began abusing opioids, and for most, it all boils down to missing coping skills. Dealing effectively with stress, illness, fear, depression, boredom, loneliness, and other negative states requires developing healthy thought patterns and practicing specific coping strategies.

Until you change negative ways of thinking about yourself, your addiction, and your relationships, and learn how to cope with difficult feelings and emotions, opioids will be the coping mechanism of choice.

How Opioid Addiction and Dependence Develop

Addiction and dependence aren’t the same thing and they develop differently. They both develop as the result of brain changes caused by heavy substance abuse.

Addiction

Addiction is characterized by compulsive opioid abuse despite the negative consequences it causes. People who are addicted no longer have control over how much, how often, or for how long they use.

Heavy substance abuse leads to changes in the brain’s reward, learning, and memory centers. Opioids cause the brain to release large amounts of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, which is the reward center of the brain. When this occurs, the memory center, known as the hippocampus, records a memory of the pleasure it produces and the environmental cues that are present while using. The amygdala, which is associated with learning and with survival instincts, creates a conditioned response to those environmental cues – think Pavlov’s dog, who salivated every time a bell rang because he associated the sound with getting fed. This response causes cravings for opioids whenever you’re exposed to the people, places, things and emotions that you associate with using.

With repeated exposure to opioids, the pleasure center of the brain communicates with the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for executing tasks, in a way that leads to compulsive behaviors. Opioids have re-wired the reward pathways in the brain, and even if you want to stop or try to stop, you find that you can’t – at least not for any length of time. Many people will fall into a remission-relapse cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

Signs and symptoms of addiction include:

  • The inability to stop using, even if you want or try to
  • Using more opioids or using for a longer period of time than you intended
  • Using opioids despite the problems it causes for your relationships, health, finances and legal status
  • Neglecting duties at home, work, or school due to opioid use
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Taking risks to obtain opioids or engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence
  • Hiding the extent of your opioid use from others
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and basic self-care

Once an addiction develops, substance abuse is no longer a choice, but rather a compulsion. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that good intentions and willpower are rarely enough to end an addiction for the long-term.

Dependence

Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that occur when you quit using a substance cold-turkey. For opioids, these symptoms include nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, hot and cold sweats, and muscle cramps.

When you repeatedly abuse opioids, your brain changes the way it operates in order to compensate for the heavy presence of the drug. It does this by altering the activities of neurotransmitters – including reducing dopamine activity – to try to normalize brain function.

This leads to tolerance, which occurs when you need increasingly larger doses of opioids to get the same effects smaller doses once produced. But as you increase the dosage, the brain continues to alter its function. At some point, a shift may occur, and your brain will operate more comfortably when opioids are present than when they’re not. Then, when you stop using, normal brain function rebounds. This causes the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Tolerance and withdrawal are the two indicators that dependence has occurred.

Opioids produce tolerance very quickly. It doesn’t take long to develop an opioid dependence, and the fear of withdrawal keeps many addicted individuals from quitting or getting help.

Opioid Addiction is Treatable

Even severe opioid addiction is treatable. The gold standard of treatment for opioid addiction is medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. MAT involves a combination of medication and counseling, and it offers the best chances of successful long-term recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MAT has been shown to:

  • Decrease opioid use
  • Reduce opioid-related deaths
  • Reduce criminal activity associated with opioid abuse
  • Reduce the transmission of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis
  • Increase social functioning
  • Improve retention in treatment
  • Improve birth outcomes for pregnant women

Medication-assisted treatment involves two components: medication and counseling.

Medication

While many people believe that MAT is simply replacing one addiction for another, this simply isn’t true. Medication for opioid addiction helps to reduce cravings and normalize brain function so that you can focus on recovering from the addiction. When these medications are taken as prescribed, they help end the addiction to opioids. Three medications are approved by the FDA for MAT:

Methadone, which prevents the onset of withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, and blocks the effects of other opioids. Because methadone is a synthetic opioid, it has a high abuse potential and is administered daily at a specialized clinic.

Buprenorphine, which, like methadone, blocks withdrawal and the effects of other opioids. But unlike methadone, buprenorphine has a ceiling effect, and taking more of it won’t produce more pronounced effects. This means that it has a lower abuse potential and can be prescribed by a doctor and taken at home.

Naltrexone, which blocks the effects of opioids and reduces cravings. Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naltrexone can only be taken once all traces of opioids are out of your system. It’s available as a daily pill or a monthly injection.

The medications used to treat opioid addiction enable individuals to focus on recovery rather than on withstanding intense cravings.

Counseling

Without the counseling component of MAT, the relapse rate for opioid addiction is over 90 percent. Detox and medication alone can end a physical dependence on opioids, but it won’t do much to address the addiction, which is far more complex.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stresses that there is no single pathway to recovery that works for every individual. A holistic approach to treatment offers the best outcomes and involves both traditional and complementary therapies.

Individualized treatment plans are central to successful rehab. The treatment plan should address the individual’s unique needs, issues, and challenges, and it should evolve to meet new and changing needs as a person progresses through treatment.

Through a variety of traditional and complementary therapies, people in treatment:

  • Identify harmful thought and behavior patterns and develop healthier ways of thinking and behaving
  • Develop an arsenal of skills and strategies for coping with cravings, stress, negative emotions, and other relapse triggers
  • Address the complex issues behind the addiction
  • Work to repair damaged relationships and restore function to the family system
  • Learn to relax and have a good time without opioids
  • Identify their inherent strengths and values and use them to find purpose and meaning in an opioid-free life

Duration of MAT

Some people will be on medication for a few months, others for a few years. Some will stay on medication for the rest of their lives. Ideally, the counseling component of MAT will last at least 90 days. Anything less is of limited effectiveness, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Best Approach to Opioid Addiction Treatment for Young People

Overall, fewer than 10 percent of addicted individuals seek professional help for an addiction. But while people between the ages of 35 and 39 account for 11.7 percent of all treatment admissions, young people between the ages of 20 and 29 account for almost 30 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.(8) This is due, in part, to stronger family ties among young people and their relaxed attitudes toward treatment. Young adults are less likely to stigmatize drug addiction, and they’re less likely to feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking help for mental health issues, including addiction.

Because people of different ages are in various stages of life and have different needs and issues, treatment should be age-appropriate. A high-quality program for any age group will take a holistic approach to treatment that addresses a range of physical, mental, and spiritual issues for whole-person healing.

A treatment approach tailored to young adults will likely include:

Experiential and Complementary Therapies.

Young people respond particularly well to complementary and experiential therapies like art or music therapy, adventure therapy, restorative yoga, and mindfulness-based meditation. These therapies help individuals reduce stress, improve self-awareness and self-confidence, increase self-esteem, build trust, and develop healthy relationships.

Group Therapy

Group therapy offers numerous benefits for young people. It helps participants develop communication skills, social skills, and healthy relationships. It promotes honesty, trust, and accountability. Group therapy provides a strong pillar of support in early recovery as the group bonds over shared experiences and seeks to help one another sort through a variety of issues.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is a cornerstone of a high-quality treatment program. That’s because addiction affects the entire family unit. It leads to unhealthy coping behaviors as loved ones navigate the fear, uncertainty, and stress that addiction brings to the family and the household. Family therapy helps to restore function to the family system through improved communication skills and identifying unhealthy behaviors among members, such as co-dependency and enabling. Family members are encouraged to engage in individual therapy as well to help them address their own issues that may stem from – or contribute to – their loved one’s addiction.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment.

Because of the high prevalence of mental illness among the 18-to-25 year old demographic, dual diagnosis programs are in high demand. Treating co-occurring disorders requires specialized treatment that addresses both the addiction and the mental illness at the same time, each in the context of the other. This is because mental illness impacts the severity of addiction and vice versa, and both addiction and mental illness have many common underlying causes.

12-Step Alternatives

Participation in a support group is an important factor for successful recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs have historically been popular, but young people are less religious than their parents’ and grandparents’ generation, and they tend to push back against tradition. This makes Millennials, as a whole, less receptive to traditional 12-step programs, which have a basis in spirituality. Treatment programs for younger adults may offer alternatives to the 12-step program, such as Smart Recovery or Secular Organizations for Sobriety.

Purpose-Driven Treatment

Millennials are a purpose-driven generation. They’re better informed and more progressive than older generations were at that age, and they’re motivated more by happiness and having a purpose than they are by money and material things. Treatment for young people should, like them, also be purpose-driven. It should help young people identify their inherent strengths and values and find ways to use their strengths and live according to their values every day. This, according to the burgeoning field of positive psychology, is a major factor for authentic happiness in life.

There is Hope

Recovery is a process of change. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. Hope, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is the foundation of recovery. Hope is the belief that a better future is possible. There will be setbacks, especially in early recovery, but during challenging times, it will be hope that pushes you to keep at it and to keep striving for a better version of you and a better life for yourself.

Treatment helps you examine your beliefs and discard those that no longer serve you. It helps you identify your strengths and values and develop a world view and a lifestyle that honors those inherent aspects of you. It helps you develop essential coping skills and find purpose and meaning in life that can lead to greater happiness and well-being.

Addiction is complex, and opioid addiction is particularly so, but a high-quality treatment program can help you or someone you love find peace, happiness, and a better quality of life for the long-haul.

Effective Treatment Modalities for Successful Recovery

A high-quality addiction treatment program will offer both traditional and complementary therapies to help individuals achieve holistic healing. This approach involves a variety of treatment modalities that address issues of body, mind and spirit. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this approach offers the best possible outcomes of treatment.

Traditional Treatment Modalities

Research-based traditional therapies are defined as therapies that have been shown through research to be effective for treating addiction. Often called “talk” therapy, these treatment modalities include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals identify the self-destructive thought and behavior patterns that often come with addiction. CBT therapy also teaches healthier ways of thinking and behaving.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Not everyone who enters treatment feels ready for change. Motivational interviewing is a positive, collaborative therapeutic intervention that helps individuals find their own reasons for wanting to quit using. It directs clients to a mindset where they’re ready to commit to changes that will improve their ability to live according to their values.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioral therapy helps individuals learn to regulate their emotions. Heavy, intense emotions can lead to self-destructive behaviors. Developing a tolerance for distress and learning to fully experience emotions and control the resulting reactions can help reduce reliance on drugs or alcohol to suppress or control emotions.

Trauma-Focused Therapies

A history of trauma is a common underlying cause of addiction. Trauma-informed treatment modalities are designed to help trauma survivors achieve feelings of safety from trauma. Seeking Safety is a therapy that focuses on the present. This therapy helps individuals develop coping techniques and skills for handling the range of emotions and behaviors that result from trauma.

Family Therapy

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, addiction is a family disease that affects all aspects of family functioning. Family members develop unhealthy coping skills as they experience the stress and chaos that comes from living with an someone struggling with an addiction. Family therapy helps to restore function to the family system and repair damaged relationships. Family members learn how to best support their loved one in recovery, and the addicted individual learns how the addiction affects family members and the family as a unit.

Complementary Treatment Modalities

Complementary therapies are those that have been shown through research to be effective for treating addiction when used along with traditional treatment therapies. Complementary therapies are an integral part of a high quality, holistic treatment program. Commonly used complementary therapies used in addiction treatment include:

Art or Music Therapy

Art and music therapy help individuals work through difficult emotions, express and synthesize their experiences and develop a higher level of self-awareness. They promote the use of creativity, which can help with emotional regulation, stress relief and healthy self-expression.

Massage or Acupuncture

Both massage and acupuncture help improve body awareness and promote optimal physical functioning. They help relieve stress, improve immune system function and increase feelings of physical and mental well-being.

Nature Therapy

Spending time in nature has distinctive therapeutic benefits, including stress relief, greater self-awareness, improved problem-solving skills and better communication skills. Nature therapy can include horticultural therapy, which involves working with plants, or adventure therapy, which involves outdoor adventures like hiking, climbing or camping.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness, or living in the present moment, is central to successful recovery. Mindfulness meditation improves the practice of staying mindful of emotions, bodily sensations and states of mind throughout the day. It also reduces stress, promotes self-care and improves self-awareness.

Treatment Works!

Through a variety of treatment modalities that are chosen based on an individual’s unique needs, issues and preferences, a high-quality treatment program will take a comprehensive approach to treatment that helps improve all areas of an individual’s life. Treatment therapies help people resolve issues, develop essential coping skills, and find purpose and meaning in a life of sobriety. Treatment works, and it can work for you or someone you love.

Is There Such A Thing As A Functioning Opioid Addict?

Answer many stereotypes about people suffering from opioid addiction are wrong and outdated. The fact is, opioid addiction affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. It affects clergy members, medical professionals, housewives and CEOs. Crossing socioeconomic lines, people of all ages can develop an opioid addiction. At times, the addiction can be deceiving, as life seems to continue as “normal”. In fact, it’s possible to be a highly functioning addict temporarily.

A functioning addict will often successfully hide his or her opioid abuse from friends, family members, and co-workers. He or she may be a model student, an attentive parent, or highly skilled and valued at work. But how long can someone who is addicted to opioids remain a functioning addict and prevent the substances from impacting their life?

Here are three important things you need to know.

1. Addiction is always progressive.

By its very nature, addiction is a progressive disease, much like diabetes or heart disease. Without treatment, it always gets worse. This is due to the brain changes that characterize addiction.

A healthy brain rewards healthy behaviors with a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure. When you eat, exercise or bond with someone you love, the brain releases a certain amount of dopamine so that you’ll continue to seek out these life-giving activities again and again.

When you use drugs, the brain’s natural reward system is hijacked, according to Harvard Medical School 1. Large amounts of dopamine are released, making you want to use drugs repeatedly. After a while, normal, everyday pleasures are no longer as rewarding as they once were, and your primary focus in life turns to getting pleasure in life from drugs rather than seeking out natural, healthy pleasures.

Chronic opioid use affects areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory and motivation. It affects the decision-making center of the brain and makes it very difficult to make choices that are healthy and promote optimal functioning. Over time, using becomes central to life, while relationships and hobbies begin to take a back seat. You begin to neglect duties at work, school or home, and you start to neglect your health and wellbeing. It could take months, or even years, but eventually, addiction will inevitably progress to the point of dysfunction and disability.

2. Opiates may seem to help at first, but they almost always make things worse.

A functioning addict may abuse opiates for a variety of reasons:

  • To reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression.
  • To get high.
  • To self-medicate physical or mental pain.
  • To prevent withdrawal.

No matter the reasons a functioning addict has for using opioids, and however opioids seem to make life better, using makes everything much worse in the long-run, including pain and mental illness. Even a highly functioning addict can’t escape the devastating effects of long-term opioid abuse on physical and mental health, including organ failure, blood diseases and serious mental illness. Additionally, the risk of overdose and death for a functioning addict is always high, whether the addiction involves heroin or prescription opioid painkillers.

2. Opiates may seem to help at first, but they almost always make things worse.

No matter the reasons a functioning addict has for using opioids, and however opioids seem to make life better, using makes everything much worse in the long-run, including pain and mental illness. Even a highly functioning addict can’t escape the devastating effects of long-term opioid abuse on physical and mental health, including organ failure, blood diseases and serious mental illness. Additionally, the risk of overdose and death for a functioning addict is always high, whether the addiction involves heroin or prescription opioid painkillers.

3. Treatment can help a functioning addict end the addiction and dependence before they lead to severe disability.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, willpower and good intentions are rarely enough to end 2 an addiction for the long-term. Professional help is almost always needed.

Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction can prevent withdrawal and block cravings while helping to normalize brain function so that you can focus on addressing the issues behind the addiction and work on improving or restoring your life.

A functioning addict is always on borrowed time. Getting help before the addiction progresses can save your relationships, your job, your health and even your life. Treatment works, and it can work for you, too, whatever your reasons for using opioids.