Prescription Opioid Overview
Prescription opioids work by blocking nerve receptors in the brain that are responsible for recognizing pain.
There are many different types of prescription medications containing opioids, and they all work relatively the same way.
Common prescription opioids include:
- Morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®)
- Codeine (found in certain prescription cough syrups)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Norco®)
- Oxycodone (Percocet®, OxyContin®)
- Oxymorphone (Opana®)
Overcoming Prescription Opioid Addiction
Agreeing to opioid addiction treatment is a brave step towards a healthier lifestyle. Together with your counselor, physician, or similar healthcare provider you can create an individualized treatment plan.
Your treatment plan will be tailored to your individual situation and will include recommendations or referrals to either inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. Self-treatment (i.e. tackling opioid use disorder without professional support/prescription drug rehab) isn’t recommended, as it is rarely effective.
Pursuing Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Starting treatment for prescription opioid addiction can seem intimidating or overwhelming to the person struggling with opioid abuse. Not only will they have to fight against withdrawal symptoms, but they will also have to confront the pain they used the medications to mask.
Thankfully there are a variety of addiction treatment centers with various levels of care available to meet your (or your loved one’s) individual needs.
You or your family member don’t have to struggle with prescription drug abuse without help and support. By seeking an inpatient or outpatient rehab center, you have already taken a huge step toward leaving prescription drug addiction abuse behind you for good.
Prescription Opioid Rehab: Detox and Withdrawal
Regardless of which treatment facility you choose, the first step is going to be getting over the physical dependence your body has developed after opioid abuse. This first step in the process is known as detoxification or detox. During detox, your body will eliminate any remaining prescription opioids from your system.
As your body adjusts to no longer receiving the prescription opioids that it had become used to, you may begin to experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can include cravings for the drug as well as other uncomfortable side effects.
It is often recommended for individuals to receive support and medical intervention during the detox phase to help them avoid the temptation of returning to prescription opioid abuse in order to stop the negative side effects of withdrawal.
Medicine Used During Prescription Opioid Rehab
Whether you choose inpatient or outpatient prescription drug addiction treatment, most facilities will offer a combination of therapies to address both the patient’s behavioral needs and physical well-being.
Sometimes patients will also receive prescriptions for medication alongside their behavioral therapy. These medications are intended to help promote successful recovery and discourage relapse.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
To help recovering addicts get through their withdrawals and encourage them to avoid relapsing in the future, sometimes low-risk medication is prescribed as part of their treatment program.
Many fear that the process will be too painful or too difficult to endure. While detoxing is uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is sometimes an option that can help ease the side effects of withdrawal.
Additionally, MAT prescriptions can attach to the brain’s opiate receptors and block any positive or euphoric effects that might otherwise occur from prescription drug abuse.
Buprenorphine is widely regarded as one of the most effective medications for treating opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine comes in various forms that patients can take on their own. It is available in regular or extended-release forms (e.g. Suboxone®). Buprenorphine is beneficial for both relapse prevention and as a way to lessen the negative side effects of withdrawal.
As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine still affects the brain’s opioid receptors and therefore can be habit-forming if not used correctly. It also has the potential for misuse. However, research performed by many institutes, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), still indicates that buprenorphine promotes high success rates in patients receiving treatment for opiate use disorder.
Methadone can be used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and discourage relapse.
Methadone used to be a much more common treatment for opiate and prescription opioid addiction. However, it is much less convenient than other medications for dealing with this type of substance abuse.
In most cases, methadone can only be acquired under medical supervision at a certified methadone clinic, and patients must visit every day for their dosage. While dosage can be very customized to each individual, it can be very inconvenient to travel to an external site every day to receive one’s medication.
Methadone also poses a higher risk for abuse and addiction. It is a full agonist, which means it completely blocks the brain’s opiate receptors. If a prescription opiate is abused while on a methadone prescription the user will not feel any effects of the opiate.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, which means it keeps opioids of any kind from interacting with the brain. If a person takes any prescription opiates while on naltrexone, they will not experience any effects of that opioid.
Naltrexone can be taken daily in pill format, or patients can receive a monthly shot. Naltrexone is also especially effective in preventing relapse.
Therapy Used for Prescription Opioid Recovery
Psychotherapy is a blanket term that can refer to several different methods of talk therapy. Psychotherapy explores the behavioral health of those who suffer from addiction and aims to change negative thought patterns to more positive ones.
Psychotherapy can occur one-on-one with a trained medical professional or in groups with a leader and peers. This type of therapy is an effective treatment but it is even more impactful when used alongside medication and group therapy/contingency management.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a structured psychotherapy program that helps patients identify the negative behaviors and feelings in their lives and replace them with better habits.
CBT sessions are personalized to the patient’s current struggles—many of which contributed to their prescription opioid use disorder. The therapist will help the patient create realistic, manageable goals to solve these identified struggles.
Participants are usually given “homework” or a specific goal to accomplish between each session. This type of therapy helps addiction sufferers address negative thought patterns, improve coping strategies, and recognize more positive elements of life beyond addiction.
Contingency management is a type of therapeutic strategy that involves earning rewards for positive recovery behaviors, usually clean drug tests.
Patients will get the opportunity to receive appropriate value-based items, such as special meals, additional free time, movie tickets, and so on based on their positive progression through their treatment plan.
Over time, rewards are often increased to encourage continued development in the recovering addict over time.
12-Step Programs for Opioid Recovery
Support group therapy is one of the oldest and most widely successful forms of therapy. Support groups create an open, judgment-free environment where peers can encourage one another and speak about their addiction struggles.
Studies have shown that if a person undergoing treatment becomes active in a support group, they have a better chance of overcoming their addiction.
Many support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) use the 12-step program as a foundation for treatment. Each step in the 12-step program involves achieving a milestone that will bring a person closer to living addiction-free.
The 12 steps can be a long-term process that starts with admitting powerlessness against one’s addiction. Participants will also try to recognize a power greater than themselves and surrender themselves completely to that power.
Looking for Help with Prescription Opioid Addiction?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a rehab facility locator that you can use to find different rehab centers near you. Additionally, you can speak to your doctor about any concerns you have about prescription opioid addiction (for yourself or a loved one) to receive a substance abuse assessment and determine the best treatment option for you or your loved one.
Frequently Asked Questions About Opioid Rehab
Can a person stop using opioids without rehab?
It may be possible, but it can be rare to recover from prescription opioid abuse without professional intervention. However, there are many different types of rehab programs that offer a variety of levels of care.
Many people who become addicted to prescription opioids did not intend to abuse the prescription medication to begin with. However, the stigma of rehab shouldn’t stop someone from seeking treatment.
How successful is opioid rehab?
Addiction to prescription opioids can be managed successfully through rehab treatment programs, but a lot of the success will depend on the individual’s motivation and support system.
It is also important to note that because addiction is a chronic disease, sometimes relapse may occur—but this does not mean rehab is not or was not effective.
How long does opioid withdrawal last?
On average, opioid withdrawal symptoms last about a week. However, the length of withdrawal symptoms, as well as the severity of side effects, can also depend on individual factors such as how much prescription opioids were being used and for how long.
While withdrawals may seem scary, there are options available (such as medication-assisted treatment) to help lessen your withdrawal symptoms.
How do you prevent a relapse after opioid rehab?
Long-term recovery is the goal, and relapse prevention will be an important topic covered extensively during rehab. In both inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, patients receive therapy designed to help them learn better coping mechanisms and strategies that will encourage them to continue abstaining from prescription opioids in the future.
It can also help to join a peer support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to receive accountability and encouragement when needed.
If you become injured or otherwise experience a need for prescription opioids in the future, you can speak with your doctor or similar healthcare provider about your past experience. They may recommend a different type of medication or can help you best avoid relapse while receiving medical pain relief.
Does insurance cover opioid treatment?
In many instances, insurance covers various types of treatment for opioid addiction. However, you should speak with your individual insurance carrier to find out what level of coverage is provided under your specific plan.
How can you stop someone from using opioids?
Ultimately, you can’t stop someone from abusing opioids. However, providing education and support can make a huge difference. Interventions may also be an option if your loved one is struggling with prescription opioid abuse.
It is important to remember that the most successful recoveries happen for people who are ready and willing to make a change. They cannot quit their addiction for anyone but themselves.