Why Does Treating an Opioid Addiction Require Medical Assistance?

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February 3, 2021

Struggling with an opioid use disorder can feel like an uphill battle, but more treatment plans are available to you than 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 that will not create a euphoric high, but will mitigate withdrawal symptoms, making MAT one of the most effective substance use disorder treatment strategies. It is essential to note that the MAT method is not substituting one opioid use disorder for another. The new medication will not get recovering addicts high or feed into substance misuse disorder. Instead, it serves to restore balance to the brain’s damaged circuits.

This article will explain why medical opioid treatment is a valuable opioid use disorder recovery option, how MAT works and the advantages of an integrated treatment approach, as well as some specific MAT medications. Keep reading to find out the benefits of medication-assisted treatment.

Why Choose Medical Opioid Treatment

A medical-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder is ideal because opioids directly interact with the body’s physiological functions. Addiction is a medical condition because it intertwines with neuroadaptation — the body’s ability to continue functioning correctly 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 — feel-good hormones that elevate positive feelings and happiness. The endorphins released after someone takes opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain, which reduces the body’s perception of pain. However, because the endorphins return to their typical baseline levels after the opioid wears off, overusing an opioid will interfere with the body’s natural production of endorphins.

Although the amount of naturally generated endorphins slows in response to opioid overuse, the number of receptors that endorphins bind to increases, dulling the opioid’s effects with each use. This process can lead to a dangerous cycle of steadily increasing the dosage of an opioid to achieve the same euphoric high, satisfy cravings and avoid negative feelings of withdrawal. Chasing this high is what leads to an opioid overdose.

Considering an opioid use disorder influences the brain and its chemical balance, it follows that overcoming an opioid addiction requires medical attention. Consulting with a qualified physician about opioid treatment is one of the most effective ways to handle a substance use disorder, as they will be able to provide the necessary treatment programs.

A medical professional 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 ease up 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) recovery plan can help alleviate the side effects of withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.

How to Choose Between a Physician and a Psychiatrist

It is imperative to seek help from the right people when dealing with an opioid use disorder. While it is similar to other substance abuse issues, some facets of opioid misuse make it unique. For example, 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 who takes them, even under a doctor’s supervision, is at risk for developing an addiction.

Substance abuse 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 and PTSD, and vice versa. The most successful way to learn to manage these conditions is to address them both at the same time. Seeing a psychiatrist trained to identify and treat mental illnesses can help people with a co-occurring opioid addiction and mental health disorder get to the root of both conditions simultaneously.

Because MAT relies on introducing a new opioid to combat substance use disorder, it also makes sense to consult with a physician, who can give additional medical advice about how to appropriately manage severe mental and physical withdrawal symptoms. Having both a psychiatrist and a physician on your treatment team can provide a well-rounded approach to boosting your physical and mental well-being and give you professional support. A comprehensive treatment plan that combines counseling with MAT could improve your chances of making a successful recovery.

While the first step to treating an opioid use disorder is a MAT medication, 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 routine counseling enables people to manage their opioid use disorder from every angle, so they can get and remain sober.

Anyone trying to recover can benefit from an integrated approach to treatment. Freeing people from the physical burdens of opioid use disorder via MAT will 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 client can devote their energy to repairing relationships, developing positive coping mechanisms and establishing relapse prevention techniques in counseling sessions.

What Are Buprenorphine and Suboxone®?

Buprenorphine and Suboxone® are two of the best-known and most beneficial MAT prescriptions. Approved by the FDA, buprenorphine became the first opioid use disorder medication eligible for prescription by any certified physician instead of a specialist in 2002. Buprenorphine is an extremely effective medication for treating opioid use disorder because it works to block the brain’s opioid receptors, which helps relieve 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 different medication that does not produce a high, but can block and reverse other opioids’ effects when used correctly. By taking away the euphoric sensation that may come from other opioids, Suboxone® drastically reduces the urge to go back to using again.

If not taken correctly, naloxone can cause immediate withdrawal symptoms, making it an ideal medication to discourage misuse or diversion. For these reasons, it is always smart to look for a treatment center that offers Suboxone® or buprenorphine options when searching for an opioid use disorder recovery program.

Contact AppleGate Recovery for Medication-Assisted Treatment

If you or a loved one is looking for a dependable MAT program, contact AppleGate Recovery to learn more about our services and MAT procedures. At AppleGate Recovery, we use a highly effective combination of MAT, counseling and case management to help people through every step of 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 client can receive the care they need as quickly as possible.

Locate the AppleGate Recovery treatment center nearest you or call 888-488-5337 to sign up for an appointment or visit today.

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