Opioids part two: treatment and withdrawal

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on March 19, 2019 # Health

Intake for Treatment
Treatment that includes a combination of medication, counseling, and other forms of support is the most effective means of recovering from addiction. Seeking help is the first step. An individual must see a qualified provider who will assess the individual’s needs. Factors considered in an initial assessment include determining what substances a person takes, how long he or she has taken them, an individual’s special circumstances or needs, whether or not addiction runs in his or her family, and other co-morbid mental and/or physical health complications. A physical examination is used to determine a patient’s overall health and the presence of substances in one’s system. Once this information is collected, the provider will develop a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual.

Receiving Treatment
Treatment plans should include medications, regular check-ins with a patient’s clinician or treatment center, patient participation/commitment to adhere to and cooperate with treatment guidelines, and caution for relapse and additional safety concerns. It is important to note that patients must take an active role in their recoveries. Only consuming medications that are prescribed, dosing prescriptions properly, utilizing social support from family and friends, avoiding environments that may trigger relapse, consenting to drug tests regularly, and maintaining clinician appointments are common patient responsibilities.

Treatment can be administered in outpatient, intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization, or residential addiction treatment or hospital settings depending on the needs of the patient. Three medications that aid in the treatment of opioid addiction are naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine. These medication-assisted treatments (MATs) alongside counseling or behavioral therapy and other supports make an individual more likely to experience recovery. Counseling and behavioral therapy help individuals address issues that contribute to addiction. Supports such as support groups, supportive involvement of a patient’s family or social group, and family counseling are also beneficial.

When an individual stops using opioids, withdrawal occurs. Withdrawal includes symptoms such as drug cravings, low energy, diarrhea, agitation or poor temperament, cramping, hot and cold sweats, and vomiting. Withdrawal management methods may be employed to utilize medications which control the symptoms of withdrawal and decrease the intensity of the urge to continue opioid use when combined with other maintenance medications. Patients should not alter dosage or medications consumed in treatment without consulting their clinicians.

More Information
A behavioral health treatment services locator can be found here. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) -- more information on the national 24/7 hotline for substance abuse can be found here.

Sources and additional resources:

By Brittany Branard, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.