How to Treat Opioid Addiction Effectively

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March 18, 2024

Understanding how to treat opioid addiction effectively is crucial for those facing this uphill battle. Fortunately, there are treatment options that extend beyond solely psychological counseling.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is an effective recovery strategy that alleviates the cravings and side effects of opioid withdrawal. Eliminating these symptoms helps keep people on the road to recovery and reduces the risk of overdose.

The MAT approach prescribes an opioid medication that will not create a euphoric high but will mitigate withdrawal symptoms. The role of this drug makes MAT one of the most effective substance use disorder treatment strategies.

It is essential to note that the MAT method does not substitute one opioid use disorder for another. The new medication will not get those in recovery high or feed into substance misuse urges. Instead, it serves to restore balance to the brain’s damaged circuits.

A man discussing treatment options with his counselor, focusing on strategies to treat opioid addiction effectively.

Importance of MAT to Treat Opioid Addiction

Medication-assisted treatment not only helps treat opioid addiction, but also significantly alleviates cravings and withdrawal side effects. Addiction is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to continue adapting after the introduction of a new substance. In the case of opioids, the body begins releasing different chemicals to counteract the drugs’ presence.

The chemicals the body produces in response to opioids are endorphins, also known as feel-good hormones. They elevate positive feelings and happiness or contentment. The endorphins released after taking opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces the body’s perception of pain.

However, the endorphins eventually return to their typical baseline levels after the opioid wears off. Thus, overusing an opioid will interfere with the body’s natural production and maintenance of endorphins.

The amount of naturally generated endorphins in the body slows in response to opioid overuse. Still, the number of receptors that endorphins bind to increases with repeated use, dulling the opioid’s effects each time.

This process can lead to a dangerous cycle of steadily increasing the dosage of an opioid to achieve the same euphoric high. The urge to satisfy cravings and avoid negative feelings of withdrawal will continue to intensify. Chasing this high is what can sometimes lead to an opioid overdose.

Man with his head on his arm depicting his struggle with opioid use disorder.

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms in Opioid Recovery

The way opioid misuse influences the brain’s chemical balance means that overcoming opioid addiction often requires medical intervention. Consulting with a qualified physician about opioid treatment is one of the most effective ways to handle substance use disorder. These specialized medical providers are able to provide the necessary treatment programs needed to manage opioid use disorder.

A medical provider can also ease the physical side effects that often come with opioid withdrawal. Within the first 24 hours of stopping opioids, the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness, frequent yawning, and inability to sleep
  • Excessive sweating
  • Runny nose and eyes tearing up

After 24 hours, withdrawal symptoms can become more intense and worsen before beginning to subside after about a week. The initial discomforts that accompany quitting opioids can cause some people to give up and go back to using. However, following a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program can help alleviate the side effects of withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.

Man talking with a medical provider about how to treat his opioid addiction through medication-assisted treatment, counseling, and more.

Effective Recovery Strategy for Opioid Addiction

Seeking the right help is imperative to effectively treat opioid addiction, particularly due to its unique challenges compared to other substance use issues.

Opioids can result in physical dependency within a remarkably short time, taking as little as four to eight weeks to become an addiction. Opioids are so potent that anyone taking them, even under a doctor’s supervision, is at risk for developing an addiction.

Substance use and mental health disorders often go hand in hand. The link between the two is so close that it can be challenging to identify which came first. Opioids can magnify and worsen symptoms of issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD and more.

The most successful way to manage addiction and mental conditions is to address them both at the same time. A counselor and physician can identify and treat people with co-occurring disorders and help address the root of both conditions.

MAT introduces an opioid-based medication to combat opioid use disorder under the discretion of a specialized medical provider. This physician can also tend to other potential health issues that are related to addiction, such as infections, tissue damage and others.

Having both a counselor and a medical provider on your team provides a whole-patient approach for a winning combination. A comprehensive treatment plan that combines counseling with MAT could improve your chances of making a successful recovery.

A medical provider jotting down information to create a personalized plan to treat a patient living with opioid addiction.

Opioid Addiction Medical Treatment Benefits

The first step to treating opioid use disorder is enrolling in MAT. Pairing the medication with regular counseling sessions is an excellent way to help people build healthy and sustainable living habits.

Often, environmental factors contribute to an addiction, so it’s helpful to address those in individual and group counseling settings. Combining MAT with counseling enables people to manage opioid use disorder from every angle so they stay in recovery.

Anyone struggling with addiction can benefit from an integrated approach to treatment. MAT can empower them to remedy the mental and emotional aspects of their lives that addiction may have affected. Without the distracting physical discomforts of withdrawal, a patient can devote their energy to rebuilding their lives. Repairing relationships, developing positive coping mechanisms and establishing relapse-prevention techniques in counseling sessions are all part of that.

Role of Suboxone in Opioid Addiction Treatment

Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone, is one of the best-known and most beneficial MAT prescriptions. Buprenorphine became the first FDA-approved opioid use disorder medication eligible for prescription by certified physicians in 2002. It’s a highly effective medication because it works to block the brain’s opioid receptors, relieving unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Buprenorphine can be effective alone or in a compound medication like Suboxone — a medication that blends buprenorphine with naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that does not produce a high but can block and reverse other opioids’ effects if ingested. By taking away the euphoric sensation that may come from other opioids, Suboxone drastically reduces the urge to use again.

If a patient misuses Suboxone or other opioids, naloxone can cause immediate withdrawal symptoms. This effect makes it an ideal medication to discourage relapse or diversion. For these reasons, treatment centers that offer Suboxone have become the most popular for those searching for an opioid use disorder recovery program.

A person in recovery from opioid addiction hiking and looking out into the distance at bright clouds, symbolizing a hopeful and promising future ahead.

Contact AppleGate Recovery for Medication-Assisted Treatment

If you or someone you know is looking for MAT programs, contact AppleGate Recovery to learn more about our services. At AppleGate Recovery, we use an effective combination of MAT and professional counseling to help you through the recovery process.

We put confidentiality and care first, treating everyone with the utmost respect. There is no waiting list at AppleGate Recovery, so each patient can receive the care they need as quickly as possible.

Locate an AppleGate Recovery treatment center near you, or call 888-488-5337 to schedule an appointment or a visit today.