Why Opioid Treatment Is Not Swapping One Addiction for Another

Addiction isn’t an easy thing to beat. But there are safe, effective forms of opioid treatment available that can greatly aid people on their road to recovery.

Medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction has proven to be very successful. Unfortunately, many people still shy away from it fearing that they would only be swapping one addiction for another.

Let’s compare true addiction to medication-assisted addiction treatment to learn how they are different.

What Is the Addiction Cycle?

Addiction to prescription opioids and heroin (and many other drugs) is characterized by a vicious cycle. Soon after taking the drug, the user experiences an intense euphoria or “high.” Once the high wears off, the user nosedives into a “crash.” In an attempt to ward off the crash, the user’s body begins craving the drug and the user seeks more of it.

As this cycle continues, the user’s body becomes dependent on the drug. This means that in order to function normally, the user must have the drug in their system. The user’s body also develops a tolerance to the drug, meaning they require more of the drug to get the same effect.

Dealing with Withdrawals

The trouble is that when people try to stop taking opioids, they are in for a whole host of withdrawal symptoms. These include:

● Agitation and anxiety

● Sweating

● Muscle cramps

● Abdominal cramps

● Nausea and vomiting

● Insomnia

● Diarrhea

This is not an exhaustive list of all that an individual may experience during opioid withdrawal. The intensity of the symptoms can also vary from person to person. Regardless, it is always a painful, extremely unpleasant process. Hence the addicted person’s desire to keep it from happening.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment involves taking medication under the close supervision of a doctor. There are three medicines commonly used in this treatment — methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone — and each has its specific use.

Many people worry that if they begin taking these medicines, they will simply be trading one addiction for another. After all, methadone is also an opioid.

There is a distinct difference, however.

These medicines are administered under the close supervision of a doctor whose goal is to help patients overcome their addiction. They are used as a replacement drug that will balance the chemicals in the body and stave off strong withdrawal symptoms. And, it’s important to note, they are used in conjunction with counseling.

Therapist writing down notes

These medicines do not give the user a high, nor do they promote the addiction cycle we discussed earlier. In fact, naltrexone actually prevents the user from getting high if they did take opioids.

It is true that some patients will continue to take these medications for the rest of their lives. However, they are safe medications (when used as prescribed) and there is little danger of dying from a drug overdose.

Even so, many patients don’t have to use these medications long-term. They successfully use them as a way to gradually ease their body off its dependency on opioids.

Imagine being free of opioid use without having to go through the vicious detox period. Patients have a much higher success rate of beating their addiction with this method rather than trying to “power through” withdrawals.

Beating Your Addiction

Think about what life was like before your opioid addiction. Wouldn’t you love to be free of this vicious cycle that has taken over your life?

I hope this article has helped you see how medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction doesn’t have to be a painful process that gets you addicted to another drug while you conquer your addiction.



About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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