With an estimated 2.1 million people struggling with opioid addiction, the abuse of this dangerous class of drugs is at epidemic levels in the United States. As a pronounced problem among teens and adults alike, the need for effective treatment is paramount.
Opioid use in the United States is a serious problem, but treatment can make a difference. If you or a loved one is experiencing the negative effects of using opioid medications, seek medical help immediately.
While the term “opiate” refers to any substance derived from the plant opium, opioids are medications that use these properties to lessen pain throughout the body, usually after surgeries or serious injuries. Hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl are common forms of opioids.
Why Opioid Dependence Is Such a Big Problem
Opioid painkillers are part of a class of pharmaceuticals known as Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, meaning that they bind to opioid receptors in the brain to eliminate sensations of pain and cause feelings of euphoria and release. Many people find this experience to quite be pleasurable, so they continue to take these drugs illicitly after all initial traces of pain have resolved.
Short Term Effects
Most people take these drugs for the short-term effects of pain and stress relief, a feeling of euphoria, and general sedation. The long term effects can cause serious problems with prolonged use, including:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Liver Damage
- Chronic Constipation
- Brain Damage
- Overdose and death
When opioid dependence sets in, the ceasing use can lead to withdrawal. Withdrawal is an uncomfortable process with serious complications and side effects, including;
- muscle cramping
- intense cravings
Because of these intense responses, many opioid users are unable to stop on their own and will relapse in the first few days or weeks of sobriety.
Effective Treatment Methods
Treatment of opioids has long been problematic, largely due to the risks involved with the withdrawal and detox process. Luckily, there are several options to help substance abusers overcome their addictions.
Opiate addiction treatment starts with medically managed and closely supervised detoxification. Detox is the management of the withdrawal symptoms as the body rids itself of all opiates. This should be done in a licensed detox facility. Detox is a specialty field and should only be done under the close care of a properly trained staff.
Detox refers to the process of breaking an addiction in a safe, secure place, often with medical intervention. The active ingredient found to be most effective in releasing users from their opioid dependence is a compound called buprenorphine, which is the key ingredient in two major treatment drugs.
- Subutex – Subutex is a pharmaceutical containing only buprenorphine
- Suboxone – Suboxone combines buprenorphine with another compound called naloxone. Naloxone can effectively minimize the effects of opioids, diminishing the pleasure users receive when taking doses.
Buprenorphine is what the medical community calls a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it mimics the effects of opioids to a lesser degree, making it easier for patients to wean off of their addiction. The chemical compounds in buprenorphine bind to the brain’s opioid receptors without producing the negative effects of the opioids themselves.
Counseling and Therapy
In combination with these potentially life-saving detox medicines, substance abusers need a supportive environment in which to complete the process of overcoming addiction. Because relapses can come from stress in a person’s daily life, it’s important to find professional assistance to handle the pressures of substance dependency. Therapy can also help abusers to come to terms with the root causes of addiction and provide coping methods to address pain points and drivers for drug use.
Suboxone is a sublingual film containing buprenorphine and naloxone. Suboxone is used to treat opiate addictions in combination with comprehensive psychotherapy, counseling and life skills programs.
A partial agonist and opioid receptor activator, Suboxone treatment has the ability to push heroin and other opioids out of opioid receptors, stick to these receptors and prevent users from experiencing the addicting effects of opioids. Suboxone is used for the treatment of opioid dependence in combination with psychosocial support and counseling. Although buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, activates opioid receptors, it does not stimulate them enough to produce euphoria, drowsiness or analgesic sensations. Instead, the buprenorphine in Suboxone triggers receptor activity just enough to stop recovering addicts from feeling sick.
Suboxone treatment is now done by placing a “film-like” tablet under the tongue. These Suboxone film strips are taken by recovering opioid addicts as part of their treatment plan to help reduce cravings and opioid withdrawal symptoms. Containing both naloxone and buprenorphine (unlike Subutex which contains only buprenorphine), In addition to passing clinical trial expectations, Suboxone has also been found to be high effective at treating prescription pain pill addiction in a primary care setting.
The Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) codified at 21 U.S.C. 823(g) limits prescription of Suboxone for opiate addiction to doctors meeting specific requirements. These doctors must also notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about their intention to prescribe Suboxone to patients addicted to opiates/opioids.
Suboxone tablets were discontinued in 2012 to further reduce the risk of abuse by recovering addicts.
Pharmacological properties provided by buprenorphine to support efficacy of Suboxone include its ability to reduce the potential for abuse by recovering addicts and less risk of overdose. In addition, buprenorphine diminishes the severity of cravings and physical dependency symptoms to help addicts avoid relapsing during recovery.
An opioid partial agonist that produces weakened effects of actual opiates (euphoria and slower respiratory rates, for example), buprenorphine’s effects increase slightly with each dose but eventually level off as the addict continues taking Suboxone. Called the “ceiling effect” by pharmacologists, this long-term action provided by buprenorphine works to reduce dependency and risk of abuse while also allowing most Suboxone users to gradually decrease dosing amounts.
Methadone, (brand name Dolophine), has been used to treat opiate addictions for over 40 years. A Schedule II controlled substance, methadone can only be prescribed by doctors working for outpatient treatment programs that are registered by the U.S. DEA and certified by SAMHSA.
Due to the risk of recovering addicts becoming re-addicted to methadone, it is becoming less common for doctors to prescribe methadone for opiate addiction treatment. However, methadone is still being prescribed to non-addicts for chronic pain relief.
Naloxone For Treating Opiate Overdose
Better known by its brand name Narcan, naloxone is now widely used as an antidote for heroin overdoses. An opioid antagonist that effectively reverses the harmful effects of heroin or other opioids, naloxone is included in Suboxone to prevent it from being abused intravenously. If an addict were to inject naloxone, they would experience withdrawal symptoms instead of an opiate “high”.
The best opiate addiction treatment centers are shown on the map. Click on any red marker or use the drop down menu in the upper left hand corner. The detail screens will have the website address listed as well as reviews and phone number. For website, reviews and other information, click the drop down menu in the upper left corner of the map, and click on the facility’s listing.
Give us your feedback about this page, here