Recovering from opiate addiction can be one of the most difficult challenges a person faces. The treatment supports available through opiate rehab programs work to equip those in recovery with the tools needed to maintain a drug-free lifestyle.
In essence, opiate addiction recovery has more to do with the mental effects of drug abuse than the physical effects. While addiction may seem like a drug-based condition, addiction’s aftereffects live on in the mind long after the physical effects of opiates wear off.
As difficult as opiate detox treatment may be, the real work in recovery doesn’t start until after the detox stage ends. For these reasons, it’s especially important to make the most of the psychosocial aspects of the treatment process, which include:
- 12-Step support groups
- Drug education and counseling
- Individual psychotherapy
- Group therapy
Once a person gains a clear understanding of how addiction works on the mind, he or she has the best chance of maintaining a drug-free lifestyle for years to come.
Opiate Addiction’s Effects on the Mind
The brain’s chemical pathways undergo considerable damage during the course of long-term opiate abuse. When functioning normally, the brain relies on a stable balance of neurotransmitter chemicals to maintain the body’s functions. Over time, opiates warp this delicate balance of chemicals, which in turn disrupts overall brain function.
According to the University of Colorado, addiction develops out of opiate’s effects on the brain reward system, an area that determines what motivates and drives a person’s behaviors from day to day. The reward system responds to chemical changes in the brain, especially changes in dopamine levels. Whenever there’s a surge in dopamine levels, the reward system makes note of the experiences and behaviors that made it happen.
When ingested, opiates force the release of large amounts of dopamine throughout the brain. Over time, these effects reconfigure brain reward system functions, making opiates and any activities and experiences associated with opiate use a high priority in a person’s life. By the time a person enters opiate addiction treatment, the brain’s chemical and structural makeup is geared toward addiction-based thinking and behavior.
Essential Treatment Needs
Psychosocial treatment interventions specifically work to undo the thinking and behavior patterns that drive compulsive drug-use, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. Drug education and counseling provides recovering addicts with an understanding on how addiction works while equipping them with needed relapse prevention strategies for managing drug-using urges on a day-to-day basis.
Individual psychotherapy helps a person identify and eliminate the belief systems that underlie opiate addiction, while group therapy enables him or her to develop healthy ways of expressing emotions and working through problems. The 12-Step support group option offers a more long-term approach to managing addiction using a step-by-step plan for personal development and continued growth in recovery.
Opiate addiction in general carries a high relapse rate, mostly because of the mind’s ongoing dependence on opiate effects. For people coming off long-time addiction problems, the potential for relapse can persist for several years into the recovery process. In effect, treatment for addiction doesn’t begin until a person starts working through the effects of drugs on his or her thinking.
If you or someone you know struggles with opiate addiction and have more questions about available treatment options, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-442-6158 Who Answers? to speak with one of our addictions counselors.