Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain. This means simply that when using drugs or alcohol, those with the disease are unable to stop, even if they want to. Instead, the urge to continue taking their drug of choice overwhelms them, even if the drug is causing them harm.
Addiction is characterized by not only the inability to abstain from use for any significant length of time, but also an inability to control the amount taken when using. Additional symptoms can include the loss of behavioral control, cravings, physical withdrawal, inability to recognize the problems caused by use and inability to effectively manage almost all aspects of life.
Opiates are a group of drugs that are used for treating pain. They are derived from opium which naturally occurs in the poppy plant, and are also created synthetically to replicate the effects of natural opiates. They go by a variety of names including opiates, opioids, and narcotics.
The term opiates is sometimes used for close relatives of opium such as codeine, morphine and heroin, while the term opioids is used for the entire class of drugs including synthetic opiates such as OxyContin. While the terms are used interchangeably, the most common is opiate.
Below are some of the commonly used opiates, showing both their brand and generic names. They are listed in order of increasing strength.
• Vicodin ®, Hycodan ® (generic: hydrocodone)
• MS Contin Kadian ® (generic: morphine)
• OxyContin®, Percocet ® (generic: oxycodone)
• Dilaudid® (generic: hydromorphone)
• Duragesic® (generic: fentanyl)
• Heroin (illegal street drug)
While there is no “cure” for addiction, buprenorphine and buprenorphine compounds with naloxone, such as Suboxone®, can help individuals overcome their opioid addiction to lead more satisfying, productive lives. The medications prevent withdrawal symptoms and manage cravings so that patients can focus on working with counselors to address the causes and consequences of addiction, and learn positive tools to help them manage their lives. For more information about individualized treatment plans and how the medication works in the brain visit our Suboxone® Treatment page.
Buprenorphine is what is called a partial agonist, which means it does not activate receptors to the same level as methadone. The effects felt have a ceiling, meaning they will not reach and excessively pleasurable level, no matter how much the dose is increased so are very difficult to abuse. Suboxone® contains Naloxone which acts as an antagonist blocking other opioids. Suboxone® suppresses withdrawal symptoms and cravings while blocking other opioids rendering it an effective treatment for opioid dependency like other buprenorphine compounds.
Methadone is a full opioid agonist with no ceiling effect. This is similar to the way heroin impacts the brain as it is also a full agonist. Methadone can be more easily abused, and it is possible to overdose, however, once the right dosage is achieved, it can also be successful in the treatment of opioid addiction.
Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, and methadone are both opioids, and activate opioid receptors in the brain. Both are long acting medications, and that makes them very useful for the purposes of opioid addiction treatment. However, there are very key differences that distinguish these two medications from one another.
Buprenorphine is what is called a partial agonist, which means it does not activate receptors to the same level as methadone. The effects felt have a ceiling, meaning they will not reach an excessively high level, no matter how much the dose is increased so are more difficult to abuse. Suboxone contains Naloxone which acts as an antagonist blocking other opioids. Suboxone, like other buprenorphine compounds, suppresses withdrawal symptoms and cravings while blocking other opioids rendering it an effective treatment for opioid dependency.
Methadone is a full opioid agonist with no ceiling effect. This is similar to the way heroin impacts the brain as it is also a full agonist. Methadone can be more easily abused, and it is possible to overdose, however, once the right dosage is achieved, it too can also be successful in the treatment of opioid addiction.
Common side effects include:
• Drug withdrawal syndrome
• Decrease in sleep (insomnia)
• Blurred vision
• Back pain
• Intoxication (feeling lightheaded or drunk)
• Disturbance in attention
• Irregular heart beat (palpitations)
Potential side effects of buprenorphine and buprenorphine compounds include:
• Respiratory Issues – see warnings regarding taking buprenorphine based medications with benzodiazepines or other medications with possible interactions.
• Problems with coordination
• Dependency or abuse if not medically supervised
• Liver problems
• Allergic reaction
• Opioid withdrawal
• Decrease in blood pressure
Please speak to an AppleGate Recovery specialist or your physician for more information on possible side effects, interactions and other safety information.
Opiate withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable. Treatment with buprenorphine or a buprenorphine compound is intended to eliminate the discomfort caused by withdrawal, and therefore eliminate the cravings that so often lead to relapse.
While you may not feel 100% back to normal during your first days of treatment, you will continue to improve as your dose is stabilized. Your withdrawals will continue to decrease until you are no longer experiencing them at all.
It is important to remember is that opiate withdrawal is not life threatening if you are withdrawing only from opiates and not a combination of drugs. Be sure to inform your doctor of any other drugs or medications you may be taking.
There is no specified duration of time for a medication-assisted treatment program. Each person’s journey in treatment is unique, and the length of treatment is impacted by a number of factors including how long and how much they used and whether or not they participate in counseling and other recovery support services. Experts indicate that success in medication-assisted treatment is much more likely for those who participate for a minimum of one year.
Individual and group counseling options are available at AppleGate Recovery clinics. Those who actively participate in counseling while in a medication-assisted treatment program are significantly more likely to experience success in recovery.
AppleGate Recovery abides by HIPAA Privacy Practices, and cannot release any of your information without your written consent or a court order signed by a judge. At AppleGate, protecting and prioritizing your privacy and confidentiality is a matter of the utmost importance.
The staff at each and every AppleGate Recovery clinic is chosen very carefully with special attention paid to their ability to express professional compassion and deliver the highest quality of care. We believe addiction is a disease, and each patient should be treated just as you would if being treated for any other life threatening disease.
The treatment delivered at AppleGate Recovery is exclusive opioid use disorder. Our focus is on providing the best medication-assisted treatment, counseling and support services to address the issues specific to opiate addiction.
When you begin a recovery program, the priority is to address the physical withdrawals and cravings you are experiencing. As the medication prescribed begins to work, you can look to begin improving your overall health and well-being. This is the time when you can begin to focus on nutrition, exercise and sleep. Healthy foods and plenty of water are the keys to the rebuilding process the body is going through in recovery. Exercise is one way to encourage the natural production and release of hormones which help improve mood and concentration, while sleep offers the body the break it needs to put all of these new habits to work to repair the damage caused by drug and alcohol use.
A support system holds you accountable, encourages you and helps to eliminate the feelings of loneliness through acceptance and hope. It helps to know that others have experiences similar to yours and understand your struggle with addiction. This type of community support can be found through:
- group counseling sessions at a medication-assisted treatment program
- at a 12-step meeting
- in other recovery groups such as sober living houses or IOP
Many individuals who have been struggling with addiction feel very alone. The relationships with family and friends have likely been strained, and some may seem irreparably broken, but it is important to build a strong support group as you work your treatment program. As you begin to heal, your relationships with family and friends can also begin to heal.