Opiates are a sneaky substance. At first, they seem like your friend. Many people describe feeling better in their body and mind than in their entire life when high on opiates. As tolerance builds and the amount used to get the same effect increases, dependence often follows.
Dependence is the point at which withdrawal symptoms happen when the opiate starts to wear off. It doesn’t matter if it’s heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, tramadol, or any other opiate, they all can lead to the same place - painful withdrawal, followed by use - sometimes at nearly any cost - to avoid the misery of days of severe illness.
How on earth do you escape that cycle and begin to move back to a life not dependent upon opiates? While everyone’s journey is their own, there are some basic steps and tools that can help you successfully break free of opiate dependence. Thousands have done it before you and so can you!
The “Withdrawal-Use Cycle”
Detox is the process where you stop use of the substance and wait until your body metabolizes and gets rid of it. To be considered fully detoxed, it means there is no more of the substance in your blood and you test negative on a urine drug test.
Getting clean from opiates is never a comfortable affair, but it doesn’t have to be like the movies where you're lying in bed shaking, throwing up and having diarrhea uncontrollably. Thankfully, it is well known what the primary and most difficult symptoms are that happen during opiate detox and there are helpful medications. Most detox centers will have a doctor that will prescribe medications to either take the edge off or possibly completely eliminate the withdrawal symptoms, depending on what they are.
Detoxing “cold turkey” is not for the faint of heart and is not usually successful. Step one to breaking free from the “withdrawal-use cycle” is getting detoxed. Your chances of accomplishing step one and moving on to the next steps in recovery are much better if you go to a center that has the experience and expertise to get you through safely.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Opiate Use Disorder (OUD) is one of the conditions that has some very effective medications that support recovery and help prevent relapse. The two primary medications to know about are Naltrexone and Suboxone.
Suboxone is a medication that actually has opiate effects in the body. This means that it binds to the same receptors in the body and brain as heroin or oxycodone, for example. The really nice thing about Suboxone is it can take the place of the other opiates that were being used and essentially keeps full blown withdrawal from happening because there is still an opiate present.
Suboxone puts a little caveat on what was discussed in the detox section above. Suboxone is typically be used to “switch out” someone from another opiate they’re dependent on. This is called Suboxone induction.
Instead of needing heroin to avoid withdrawal, you would instead stay on a daily stable dose of Suboxone. It essentially takes the place of heroin or other drugs used. Suboxone works incredibly well to free people from the cycle of dependence and to live fully functional lives again.
The great news is, Suboxone does not require higher and higher doses. Once your provider finds the dose that prevents withdrawal, you can typically stay at that same dose for an indefinite amount of time.
Naltrexone is a medication that blocks opiates in the body. Once fully detoxed, naltrexone can be used to essentially prevent full relapse as long as it’s not stopped. If an opiate is used while on naltrexone, there is no effect - no high. If someone does relapse, it doesn’t take more than once or twice before they realize there is no point. As long as the person uses naltrexone, they have a much better chance of staying clean in the long term. Naltrexone is kind of like a security blanket against full-blown relapse while working a recovery program.
Mental Health Is A Must
As soon as you decide to detox and/or begin MAT, ensuring you have an aftercare plan is essential. Many people think they can get clean or get on Suboxone, and put their addiction behind them and “move on”. The trouble with this logic is, addiction is typically a symptom of greater healing that needs to take place underneath.
Trauma, other mental health conditions, chronic pain, unprocessed grief - these are just a few reasons addiction and dependence can begin. Without getting to more of the core reasons for your substance use, addictions to other substances or new destructive behaviors can begin to manifest. Getting clean is simply moving an obstacle out of the way so that healing can begin.
There are a variety of options to consider on your journey to recovery. Working with a professional who knows you and can help individualize a program that will help you meet your goals is extremely helpful. This way you don’t have to guess what will work best for your unique situation.
Some of the aftercare programs to consider are in-patient rehab, intensive outpatient program/counseling (IOP), group therapy, support groups like narcotics anonymous and others, and individual counseling/therapy.
Mindful Care works with you one-on-one to make sure you have personal support in creating your recovery plan. Our approach includes a My favorite search engine is Personal Recovery Coach, Text & Phone Support, and a Customized Treatment Plan.