Fighting the War on Opioids in America with Opioid Detox

Drugs & Alcohol - Most Recent - News - Treatment
Published: 10/18/2017 | Author:

These days, almost everyone is concerned about the opioid crisis in America. Experts estimate that the United States will experience at least 500,000 opiate-overdose fatalities over the next decade—half a million unnecessary deaths – if things continue at this pace. It affects all of us, whether directly or indirectly. There is no one magic bullet that can solve this nationwide problem, however everyone agrees that helping individuals recover from opiate addiction is one of the best remedies available.

The first step to opiate addiction recovery is opioid detox, therefore providing access to opioid detox treatments is one of the few certain things we can do to counteract the drastic rise in opiate abuse and overdose in America.

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The Tragic Facts on Opioid Addiction

The statistics on opiate abuse and overdose are shocking—and heartbreaking. Right now, the U.S. suffers more than 100 opioid-related deaths every day, and the rising availability of fentanyl and carfentanil, two powerful synthetic opioids, could soon cause the daily death toll to rise as high as 250.

In 2015, the U.S. suffered over 33,000 opioid-related fatalities, and statistical trends show that there’s a good chance this number could double, or triple, in coming years, so that we could soon be seeing over 93,000 fatalities each year. Even people who think the opiate crisis does not apply to them should recognize that these overdoses will drain hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. economy.

The increasing presence of fentanyl and carfentanil—an elephant tranquilizer that is being sold on the streets, usually in counterfeit pills designed to look like popular drugs such as oxycodone, or mixed in with heroin or cocaine—should have everyone on their guard. Last year, paramedics in Louisville were called to the scene of 151 overdoses in four days, and emergency workers in Cincinnati dealt with 174 overdoses in just six days. Huntington, West Virginia recently had to send out every ambulance in the city on a day when they encountered 28 overdoses in one five-hour time span.

Synthetic opiates are so deadly, that the DEA recently stated that first responders should all carry naloxone (a lifesaving drug that counteracts the symptoms of opiate overdose), not just for victims, but for themselves. The DEA also recommended that first responders wear safety equipment such as gloves, goggles and masks, or even head to toe hazmat suits in particularly risky cases. In case you think that this recommendation is an overreaction, you should know that carfentanil is so potent, several police officers have already overdosed by simply touching traces of the powdered drug that were present at crime scenes.

What are opioids?

Opioids are pain relieving drugs that function by attaching to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, and in particular the brain, blocking pain signals and releasing neurotransmitters that create a sense of contentment. When taken without the presence of pain, or in higher than usual doses, these drugs produce an intense rush of euphoria and relaxation. This effect is not only highly desirable in a way that encourages psychological addiction, the physical reaction that creates this effect actually changes the structure and functioning of the opioid reward system in the body and brain, leading to profound physical addiction.

Opiate addiction is characterized by obsessively pursuing substance use despite negative consequences, and often, despite the desire to quit. There are prescription opioids such as the painkillers codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, as well as the illicit drug heroin.

Heroin is so addictive, about 1 out of 4 people who try it get hooked.

However, many heroin users didn’t start with heroin, but with prescription medications that they took for pain resulting from a legitimate medical condition. Then, due to prescription misuse, regular long-term use, or their individual vulnerabilities, addiction developed. When people who are addicted to prescription opiates are not longer able to get prescriptions from their doctors, they may find themselves turning to heroin, which is more widely available and less expensive than illicitly-obtained prescription medications.

Heroin is one of the most commonly abused opioids. Though it can be smoked or snorted, heroin is most often injected intravenously, which puts the user at additional risk of contracting blood-borne illnesses. Prescription opiates such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) are also widely abused, with the fast acting, synthetic opiate fentanyl rapidly increasing in frequency of use. Some of this fentanyl use is intentional, but some is by individuals who don’t realize what they’re taking, as dealers mix the potent drug into heroin, or compress it into counterfeits of opiates like Percocet or Vicodin.

Once individuals are physically addicted to opiates, they will suffer symptoms of opiate withdrawal if they try to quit, or if they simply wait too long in between doses. For some, the experience of opioid detox without professional medical assistance is so unbearable, they start using again to find relief, regardless of how much they had wanted to quit in the first place.

What are opiate withdrawal symptoms?

The symptoms of opiate withdrawal, whether from prescription opioids or heroin, begin within 12 hours of the last use. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Increased tearing
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Goosebumps
  • Abdominal cramping and diarrhea

Many people in the midst of opiate withdrawal also experience fatigue, restlessness, depression, and insomnia. While some of these symptoms resolve within the first few days to two weeks of quitting, some symptoms, like depression and insomnia, can linger for months. Although there will be overall improvement in the big picture, the rate of improvement is not a straight incline. Instead, symptoms rise and fall in intensity, and come and go over time. People in recovery need to understand this, and receive appropriate treatment.

How will a medical detox help with opioid addiction?

Opioid Detox

Addressing underlying causes of addiction will help build the foundation for lasting recovery.

Detox is the first step to opiate addiction recovery, and to ensure that you get through it as comfortably and safely as possible, without returning to opiate use to relieve your symptoms you need to seek a medical opioid detox. There are outpatient opioid detox programs available, but studies show that inpatient opiate addiction treatment produces the best outcomes for long term recovery.

Inpatient treatment for opiate addiction should include withdrawal management to relieve the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Medications such as Suboxone, Subutex, and methadone will be used to treat the physical symptoms of addiction, while you focus on improving your health, and engaging with your treatment plan, which should include elements like cognitive behavioral therapy, and group, individual, and family counseling.

Outpatient opioid detox can also be effective, as long as it combines medical treatments like medications for opiate withdrawal with counseling and behavioral therapy. The key is to treat all sides of opiate addiction—from the physical and the psychological, to the social and behavioral. Treatment with naltrexone once you are completely detoxed from opiates can also improve outcomes. Naltrexone binds to opiate receptors, where it works to decrease drug cravings, and block the intoxicating effects of any opiates you may take. Basically, naltrexone keeps you from getting high, and knowing this can discourage relapse. Long-acting injectable formulations of the drug, like Vivitrol, will help avoid the problem of non-compliance.

Recovery is a lifelong commitment

Discharge from an inpatient treatment program is usually followed by an outpatient treatment program, but even after discharge from outpatient treatment, recovery continues. A quality addiction treatment facility will start planning for discharge and aftercare long before your time with the program ends.

Continued counseling, attending peer support groups, and going to facility alumni events, can help you maintain abstinence and continue to grow in recovery. Because many people in recovery from opiate addiction have suffered professional, financial, and legal issues as a result of their substance use, aftercare programs often involve vocational opportunities, legal assistance, employment services, and more. The goal is to give each patient a strong foundation for success, so that they can smoothly and safely transition out of a treatment program into a fulfilling, substance-free life.

Opioid abuse is one of the leading causes of fatal overdose in the U.S. Get the help you need today!

How long does it take to detox from opioids?

The amount of time it takes to detox from opioids depends on how long you have used, what substances you used, how much you used, and your individual body chemistry. There are however, general timelines that most people can expect when they begin opioid detox.

In the first one to three days, opiate withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach problems
  • Sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritability and hostility
  • Headaches
  • Aggression

In days three to five, the most intense physical opiate withdrawal symptoms will have subsided, although withdrawing individuals will probably still experience symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Shivers
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach cramping

Depression can set in immediately, or surface later, after the worst of the physical symptoms have passed. Some opiate withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, depression, headaches, and mood swings, may persist for weeks or months after the acute phase of opioid detox is over. This is why medical interventions combined with counseling should not cease once a patient’s body is “clean” of opiate drugs. The body and brain have experienced changes that may take considerable time to heal, and people in recovery need to be aware of this, and need to receive appropriate treatments if they are to stay sober and keep making improvements in their health and their life.

Inpatient medical opiate detox is advisable, not only to counteract the many unpleasant symptoms listed above, but to ensure your health and safety. While most opiate withdrawal experiences are not dangerous, deadly health complications are possible, especially if you have used opiates with other substances like benzodiazepines or alcohol. In addition, there are some health risks you may face due to symptoms that aren’t fatal in themselves, but that can lead to fatal health complications. For example, persistent nausea and vomiting can cause dehydration, malnourishment, electrolyte imbalances, and rapid weight loss that can create problems with your heart, kidneys, or other organs.

Unsupervised opioid detox is also dangerous due to the severe depression and anxiety that some people experience during opiate withdrawal. These intense emotional symptoms put the person in recovery at risk of hurting themselves, using again, or attempting suicide.

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If you or someone you love needs help overcoming opioid dependence or addiction, call now to find the detox solution that is right for you.

Professional opioid detox is the best defense

Professional opioid detox, followed by a comprehensive treatment plan at a qualified addiction rehab facility that also provides aftercare planning, is one of the best weapons we posses to fight the U.S. war on opioids.

People who work in the trenches of this war every day are well-aware of how important addiction treatment is, and many of them are going above and beyond to help people get the treatment they need. For example, various police departments in Ohio have banned together to form the Ross County Post Overdose Response Team. Each week, the county’s addiction specialists and police officers go over the overdose incidents from the previous week and make a list of names and addresses. Then they split up and head out across the county to literally knock on doors and try to speak to the individuals and their families.

The response team provides literature on addiction and a counselor to speak to. They talk about how important it is to get professional help. If the individual decides that they do want help, the response team can immediately connect them to detox programs nearby. Out of the 80 or so drug users and families that the response team was able to visit in this way, ten individuals have gone into treatment. That’s a 12.5% success rate—considering the fact that that these people probably would not have sought treatment otherwise, as well as the fact that in past years, only 20% of people who struggled with opiate addictions received treatment, the Ross County Post Overdose Response Team is making a real difference in their community.

If you or someone you love has been personally affected by the opiate crisis, do your part to fight the war on opioids by finding out more about opioid detox treatment. Call 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) today!

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