It is a well established fact that the US is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic. Thousands of people are struggling with opiate addiction and dependency, many of whom sadly never get the treatment they need. Many of them do not have the resources or ability to take time off to go to an inpatient treatment facility. The good news is that there are outpatient options available to treat opioid use disorder. A combination of medication management and therapy has shown to be effective in treating dependency on heroin and prescription pain killers like oxycodone. Here is what outpatient opiate treatment should consist of:
Suboxone is an FDA-approved medication used to treat opiate addiction. It is a combination medication containing two active ingredients, buprenorphine and naxolone. Buprenorphine works on the same receptors as other opioids, to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It also helps to reduce the effects of other opioids. The other ingredient, naxolone, further blocks the receptors activated by opioid use, so that individuals on the medication cannot get high if they use opioids. Prescribed properly, the medication helps with detoxing patients, and helps to prevent relapse. Unlike older opioid substitution medications like methadone, Suboxone has significantly less side-effects. It is important when receiving Suboxone treatment that you go to a physician or nurse practitioner that specializes in addiction medicine. You can learn more about Suboxone treatment here.
Methadone is the oldest and most common treatment for opiate addiction, although it has fallen out of favor as newer medications continue to be developed. Methadone is a synthetic opioid that helps patients stop using illicit opiates and reduces the harm related to overdoses. However, because methadone mimics other opioids many people can go from being addicted to heroin to being addicted to methadone itself. Methadone can also be difficult to stop taking once a patient has been on the medication for a period of time. There are cases where it is appropriate to receive Methadone, but at our clinic in Delray Beach, we often see patients who are struggling on Methadone and are looking for alternate medication options.
Addiction has a behavioral aspect to it. Individuals who have a dependency on opiates have strong emotional and psychological bonds to their addiction. It is important to break unhealthy behavioral patterns in order to prevent relapse. For patients receiving medication assisted treatment, it is strongly recommended that they receive clinical services and therapy along with any opioid substitution medication. Certain behavioral therapies, like CBT and DBT, are effective in teaching healthy coping skills to people in early recovery. Both CBT and DBT teach specific skills that can be used in everyday life, to help those in early recovery deal with the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies opiate detox and post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
Often, addiction is a symptom of something deeper. Addiction is often accompanied by a co-occurring mental health disorder such as bipolar disorder, anxiety or depression. Many who become addicted to opiates have unresolved trauma from their past, which is why they gravitated to drugs in the first place. For patients with dual diagnosis issues, relapse is common because their underlying issues are not properly addressed. That is why psychiatrists recommend addiction patients also attend traditional therapy to deal with any other issues as well as their addiction. Process therapy helps individuals with substance use disorders get to the bottom of their desire to use drugs, and to provide resolution of any past trauma.
A good outpatient opiate treatment plan should cover both the medical and psychological aspects of the patient. Medication can help prevent relapse, manage withdrawal symptom, and reduce cravings. Therapy can help break patterns that lead to relapse. Done in concert, patients can begin to live functional lives again.