When it comes to opiate addiction treatment there are really two schools of thought that have been forming as to how to best deal with and treat individuals who are suffering from opiate addiction. One school of thought subscribes to the abstinence only method of treatment, where an individual must abstain from all mood and mind altering substances in order to achieve recovery. The other school of thought is centered around medication assisted treatment, where an individual who suffers from opiate addiction is given a non-opiate, or in some cases an opiate based substance, that is meant to curb cravings and prevent relapse back into substance abuse.
The latter school of thought has grown in popularity since 2016 when the Obama Administration signed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which essentially made it very clear that the Federal Government backed medication assisted treatment as its preferred method of opiate addiction treatment. This caused insurance companies and treatment facilities alike to follow suit.
However, regardless of where you fall in the abstinence only or medication assisted treatment debate, one thing can be said for certain, and that is—we need effective treatment for opiate abuse in this country, coupled with widespread changes to how we think about addiction.
Over the past three years the number of overdoses and overdose related deaths from opiates have skyrocketed. Some are referring to what is going on in this nation as an opioid epidemic, and rightfully so, because it seems as if every day there is a different news story describing the horrors that is opiate addiction and the wreckage it is causing in communities throughout this contry. Day in and day out individuals are out there suffering from opiate addiction and up to now our best efforts as a country and a people have failed to curtail the mounting opiate problem.
WHY IS OPIATE ADDICTION DIFFICULT TO TREAT?
This question is a bit misleading because in one sense opiate addiction is not difficult to treat. When an individual is ready to get sober their ability to get and stay sober is not contingent on any outside influences and their attempt at recovery is often met with unequivocal success. However, with the way that addiction operates within the addict, getting to this point of being ready can prove troublesome and difficult.
Addiction is an illness that seeks to mask itself from the individual affected. Whereas everyone around the addict may be well aware that they are addicted to opiates, in the addict’s mind, they still have total control over their addiction. They believe, because their addiction tells them so, that they can stop whenever they want and that they only reason that they continue in their using is because they desire to continue using. What most active addicts fail to realize is that they have zero control over when they use or how much they use. The reason for this is because of the obsession and compulsion that is created by addiction. What this means is that an individual who suffers from addiction has an obsession and compulsion to use drugs that overrides their basic human instinct for self-preservation. They will use regardless of the consequences presented to them and they will use regardless of the fact that it could be fatal to them.
To the outside observer these actions look like madness, as family and friends just cannot seem to understand why their loved one would seemingly choose substances over their relationship, but the choice, or lack thereof, is not necessarily that simple. It isn’t that the addict that continues to use does so because they are choosing drugs over their family, but rather they have to choose drugs over their family because to them there in fact is no choice. Their mind is causing them to engage in behaviors that they do not fully understand and until such a time when they are given a brief glimpse of clarity, they will be more than likely be unable to see how their addiction is out of control.
Getting an addict to the point where they can see that they need help is what makes treating addiction so difficult. Families address this in a number of different ways, ranging from cutting the addict out of their life in order to force their hand, all the way to enabling them in their addiction in hopes that they will eventually see the light.
The reality is that not much can truly be done to help an addict seek opiate addiction treatment until they are ready to see that they need help. This is why the first step in recovery requires an honest self-diagnosis and as infuriating as this can be, especially for families and friends, it is important to understand that once the addict sees that they have a problem, opiate addiction treatment can then be all the more effective.
WHAT EFFECTIVE OPIATE ADDICTION TREATMENT SHOULD LOOK LIKE
With the plethora of opiate addiction treatment options out there it can sometimes be difficult to know which treatment is the best for you or your loved one, or even what effective treatment looks like.
With that said we have a compiled a list of what effective opiate addiction treatment should look like, so that you can better educate yourself on the matter and make an informed decision when it comes to seeking treatment.
- Treatment should embrace the fact that Addiction is a multifaceted illness that not only affects an individual’s behaviors, but their brain function as well
Our understanding of what addiction is and isn’t has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 50 years, and at this point the consensus is that addiction is not simply a behavioral problem, as once thought, but rather it is an illness that affects the brain’s ability to function properly. An effective opiate addiction treatment will understand this and understand that it may take some time for the brain to return to normal functioning.
- Treatment must be customizable to meet the individual’s needs
When treatment for opiate addiction got its start there was a lack of information regarding the fact that treatment needed to be customized in order to meet the individual needs of the patient. Many of these first treatment programs offered one-size fits all approach to treating opiate addiction and as a result many addicts fell through the cracks and did not receive the help they truly needed. However today there is a general understanding in the field that each individual addict must be treated according to their needs and not on the historic needs of addicts as a group.
- Treatment should be available when needed
The decision to finally go to treatment can be tremendously frightening and as such addicts can and sometimes do get cold feet when it comes to attending treatment. They may one day be totally willing to go, only to wake up the next day with an extreme repulsion towards attending treatment. What this means is that in order for treatment to be effective it must be available when the addict decides they want to go, or as the saying goes, it is best to strike while the iron is hot.
- Treatment should be an appropriate length of time
According to the numerous studies that have been done on the subject, an individual with opiate addiction should spend at least 3 months in treatment. While finding treatment centers that are 90 days in length is becoming more and more difficult, it can be said that 30 day treatment centers with a comprehensive outpatient and aftercare program, can suffice. These treatment centers continue to engage their clients after inpatient treatment has ended and as a result it offers them the best possibility of getting and staying sober.
- Treatment should address any and all issues that the individual is suffering from
Many would be surprised to know that addiction has very little to do substance abuse. In fact as you are reading this you may be wondering what it is we are talking about, but the reality is that the use of substances is but a symptom of drug addiction and not the entirety of what is going on. We know this because if using substances was the totality of addiction, then simply removing the substances from the individual would suffice in their recovery. This however is not the case, hence relapses, and so it is important that any treatment you attend, focus on substance abuse as the ancillary issue, and look into what helped cause its continuation. This may include underlying mental health concerns or traumas from the past.
- Treatment should be fluid, changing with the needs of the individual
Any individual who has been sober for an extended period of time, in this case we mean a few months, can attest to the fact that the issues that you are facing in the first week of recovery will differ from what you may be facing a month of two down the road. In the beginning treatment should focus on stabilizing you, both mentally and physically. It next should take a look at any and all contributing factors that may have led to the continuation of your addiction. As these issues may take years to work out, it is important that treatment lays the foundation for the work that lay ahead. Once these issues have started to be addressed, it is then important that treatment move towards reacclimating you back into society and giving you the tools you need in order to thrive as a newly sober individual. These are but mere frameworks and should not be taken as gospel, but treatment should offer the ability to move and change, as the individual grows within themselves.
- Treatment should include behavioral therapies such as individual, family, or group counseling
One of the cornerstones of addiction treatment is behavioral therapies that include individual therapy, family therapy and group counseling. Each of these are important in the treatment of substance abuse as they cover the different needs of the individual. In individual therapy the recovering individual will be able to address issues that may be tremendously private, ones they are not ready to share with others just yet. This aspect of opiate addiction treatment is very important because it allows the recovering person to expose to the light of day things that may have plagued them for years. Going along with this, it is also important that treatment include family therapies, so that the family of the addict can begin to learn how to interact with them now that they are sober, as well as begin to sift through the damage and resent that was caused during active addiction. Lastly, it is important that treatment involve some sort of group counseling, so that the individual can begin to relate with others, in regards to their shared experiences, which not only helps them to not feel alone, but also allows them to open up about issues they may have not even been aware that they had.
- Treatment should offer Dual-Diagnosis services if needed.
Dual-diagnosis treatment is incredibly important, because even though addiction is considered a mental disorder, many of the individual’s who need substance abuse treatment also suffer from co-existing or co-occurring mental health concerns. What can be said for certain is that if these co-occurring issues are not dealt with then the individual’s recovery will be precarious at best, and even if they are able to maintain sobriety, their quality of life will suffer.
- Treatment should include alternative or holistic therapies.
Although these treatment services, such as yoga, art and music therapy, equine therapy, may not necessarily be backed by conclusive scientific evidence, any treatment that is truly attempting to treat the entire individual will include some of these services. Holistic and alternative therapies offer the ability to reach patients in a way that traditional talk therapies cannot, and for individuals who have suffered trauma in their past, these alternatives to traditional therapies can prove invaluable.