Steps Recovery Centers

Opioid Detox



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Steps Recovery Center recognizes how vital the mind, body, and spirit are in their connection to the whole person. We take a holistic approach to treating drug addiction that includes treating the whole person, and find that it tends to be more successful, especially since drug addiction affects every aspect of a person’s life. With a customized and individualized program, a holistic approach just makes sense. It affords an opportunity to meet the patient’s physical and psychological needs and allows them to engage physically, emotionally, and mentally.

General Information on Opioid Detoxification

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive drug use that’s difficult to control. Although the initial choice to take drugs is voluntary, repeated drug use can lead to chemical changes in the brain that challenge a person’s self-control. These changes are persistent, making drug addiction a relapsing disease.
It’s common for a person in recovery to relapse, but that doesn’t mean treatment is ineffective. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and tailored to a patient’s needs.

What is Medication-Assisted Opioid Detox?

Medically-supervised opioid detox involves the use of certain medications a doctor prescribes, to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms that can accompany the ceasing of using opioids. Symptoms that can be uncomfortable or painful include anxiety, drug cravings, restlessness, gastrointestinal distress, tachycardia, and excessive sweating.

Medications Used

The two most commonly used medications prescribed for opioid withdrawal are agonists methadone and buprenorphine (a partial agonist). Alpha-2 adrenergic agonists like clonidine and lofexidine are also used. The aim is to have the patient wean off the drug(s) as smoothly as possible with medication-assisted treatment.
When this approach is used, it usually doesn’t result in sustained abstinence from opioids, nor does it address reasons for the abuse in the first place. It also doesn’t address the damage done to relationships, finances, or employment. It also doesn’t consider the physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health of the individual. Keep in mind that full detoxification from opioids is only successfully achieved in transitioning to the intramuscular medication naltrexone. The patient will still be in a state of physiological dependence on opioid agonism when transitioning to methadone or buprenorphine.

Timeline of Using Medications

It’s important to note that the use of these medications to detox from opioids safely is a short-term treatment and that to recover fully, there needs to be long-term solutions. With that said, here is a timeline of starting the medically-assisted medication, buprenorphine, for opioid detox.

Transitioning to Naltrexone

Naltrexone blocks the sedative and euphoric effects that opioids produce, so the person taking it doesn’t get the high it is used to achieving. This is so the individual’s brain can reset itself without the addictive drug, and the person’s cravings subside. The Food and Drug Administration, or the FDA, approved the use of naltrexone to help reduce the effects of withdrawal. If someone is using medically-assisted withdrawal with methadone or buprenorphine for detox, they have to be entirely off it to start naltrexone.

The drug can be given in pill form daily or as an injectable once a month. Naltrexone works differently than methadone or buprenorphine, which activates opioid receptors in the body that suppress cravings. With naltrexone, it binds and blocks opioid receptors, which helps reduce opioid cravings, and there’s no worry of abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has more information on using these medical-assisted medications for opioid abuse.


Guided Detox For Success

There are effective treatments for addiction, but the first step on the road to recovery is to recognize there is a problem. Sometimes, when a person denies they have a problem, families and concerned friends may stage an intervention for prompt treatment—particularly if the addicted person is harming themselves or others. It’s important to get a physician’s assessment and diagnosis, then a treatment plan can be formulated, whether that means outpatient rehab, inpatient, or at-home treatment.

Rehabilitation often includes medications used to control drug cravings and therapy that can help addicted individuals understand their motivations and behavior, develop better self-esteem, cope with anxiety and stress, and address other mental problems.

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