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It can be challenging to recover from opiate addiction—and it is nearly impossible to do so without supervised, professional help. From street drugs like heroin to prescription medications such as morphine, opiates are among the most difficult substances to detox.
These painkillers can pose all kinds of risks for those who are trying to quit them. And because of their ability to produce a euphoric high, most users don’t even want to stop taking these drugs. It is for this reason that medical detox is a necessity.
What are Opiates and how do they affect the Brain?
Opiates are painkillers that help manage moderate to severe pain. These are natural derivatives of the opium poppy plant. The synthetic and semi-synthetic derivatives are known as opioids. Both opiates and opioids are also referred to as narcotics.
Because of the similar properties of opiates and opioids, these two terms are often used interchangeably. Also, it is interesting to note that the word “narcotic” is used in law enforcement to refer to all types of illegal drugs, no matter if they are opiates or not.
Opiates act primarily on dopamine, a chemical that creates euphoria associated with drugs such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. Opiates increase dopamine production artificially, causing the brain to adjust to the new, unnatural level.
Normally, this helps relieve pain by altering the way the brain perceives it. But those who abuse opiates are forcing their body to become tolerant. This means they’ll need more and more of the substance to get the same effects.
Sooner or later, they become addicted to opiates due to the over-activation of dopamine.
Once the user’s body has adapted to the drug’s presence, they become drug dependent. This means that quitting the drug will create a sharp chemical imbalance, resulting in strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This often causes the person to relapse and reengage in drug abuse.
The user may become moody, anxious, depressed, or even paranoid during the withdrawal period—not to mention the various physical effects like nausea, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
What is Medical Detox and how does it help?
Addiction is best treated using a combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy—that is if the person wants to achieve long term sobriety. Medical detox is done under the supervision of trained medical professionals. This is the safer and more effective alternative to self-regulation.
It involves gradually lowering a person’s opiate intake in order to make withdrawal more manageable.
The patient may be prescribed with medications that will either help with their symptoms or control their cravings. Specialized medication may be used in the process of opiate replacement.
Methadone and buprenorphine are commonly used to replace the person’s drug of choice for the time being. Although these drugs are also opiates, they are less likely to cause addiction when used as prescribed.
The medical detox process may vary from person to person. There are plenty of factors to consider when creating a proper treatment plan for an addicted individual. For example, are they abusing any other drug? Are they supposed to be taking opiates for pain management? Are there co-occurring disorders? These must be taken into account before conducting medical detox.
You can expect the patient to undergo initial testing before they could be detoxified.
For best results, medical detox must be done alongside behavioral therapy. The latter focuses on the mental and emotional effects of opiates. Techniques like group counseling, addiction education, and even meditation could help the patient learn how to stay sober.
Addiction may be a tough thing to deal with, but it is possible to recover. Look for a rehab facility near you today!
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