Opioid Treatment Options

What is an Opioid? 

Opioids are drugs that include both legal and illegal substances. Opioids that are illegal are heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Opioids that are legal by prescription are oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. Opioids are effective for pain because they attach to the opioid receptors in the brain and produce a euphoria that relieves pain.

Generally, opioids can be used for a short period of time for those who have recently had surgery, severe injury, or other complications that a doctor deems appropriate for use. Unfortunately, opioids produce such a euphoric feeling, that certain people who use them innocently, can become addicted to the feeling they produce which can lead to seeking out illegal opioids and addiction.  

What is Fentanyl? 

The surge in overdose deaths and opioid abuse has recently been caused by a drug known as fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that acts as morphine but is 50-100 times more potent and powerful than morphine. Although fentanyl is a legal prescription drug it is also manufactured illegally. Drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with other substances such as heroin, cocaine, and MDMA, therefore when it is purchased off the street and not in a legal prescription form, there is no way of knowing what you are actually getting. 

Fentanyl is currently the leading drug that is causing overdose deaths. The reactions of fentanyl to a person’s body are euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, and respiratory depression. Illegal fentanyl taken in any amount can lead to immediate death. 

Medications for Opioid Treatment 

One of the treatments that are available for opioid abuse is various medications that are prescribed to help alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms. Different medications that can help with opioid treatment are suboxone, Subutex, methadone, and Vivitrol. Suboxone and Subutex are similar in the way they act in a person’s body. They can be used short-term in detox or long-term. Methadone is another drug that can be used short-term for detox but is mostly used long-term for those who suffer from opioid treatment. It is a medication that has been on the market the longest for opioid treatment.

Vivitrol is the newer medication on the market and has been around for a little over a decade. Vivitrol is one of the most effective medications to use because it is a once-monthly shot that slowly releases naltrexone in the body which blocks the opioid receptors. This causes a person to not feel the effects of opioids in the event that they use opioids while on Vivitrol. Medications for opioid treatment are proven to help decrease opioid use. Medications for opioid treatment also help to decrease overdose deaths as well as criminal activity and transmission of infectious diseases. Medication-assisted treatment should also be combined with behavioral counseling. 

Counseling Approaches for Opioid Treatment 

There are different behavioral counseling approaches that can be used for opioid treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT is a therapy approach that focuses on connecting thoughts, emotions, and behaviors while also teaching clients different coping skills and techniques to prevent relapse. The goal of CBT is to change thinking and behaviors to promote positive outcomes. CBT focuses on the here and now in terms of thoughts and beliefs associated with opioid or other drug abuse.

Motivational Interviewing is a technique used by counselors to help clients who are ambivalent about recovery from opioid use. It focuses on developing a client’s own motivation both internally and externally to help change their ambivalence toward recovery. Motivational interviewing helps a client to focus on the positive actions they are taking in opioid treatment.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or REBT helps clients to focus on their own thoughts and in turn, develop better habits. REBT helps clients to think in a more positive and rational way which leads to healthier emotions. Finally, 12 step groups are a great way for those struggling with opioid addiction to feel a sense of connection and engagement with other people struggling with substance abuse. 12 step groups meet collectively to talk about continued abstinence and peer support. 12 step groups are beneficial because they are free and they have topics for anyone with any addiction to any substance. 

Seeking addiction treatment is the best approach for opioid treatment. While in opioid treatment clients have the opportunity to learn more about opioid abuse, talk to a medical professional about medication-assisted treatment as well as meet with a counselor who will use various counseling techniques and approaches to help achieve recovery.