Treating Opiate Dependence

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There are literally hundreds of different drugs that are considered opiates and which can lead to extreme physical drug dependence.  These drugs, which are derived from the opium poppy or which are synthetically created in a laboratory setting, have analgesic qualities and are commonly used in prescription painkillers for the treatment of mild to moderate or even severe pain.  Unfortunately, using opiates can lead to physical and psychological drug dependence which requires professional treatment in order to get well.

Opiates may be used to suppress pain but the pain relieving qualities of these drugs can quickly diminish as an opiate tolerance develops.  When a user develops a tolerance to opiates, he or she is at greater risk of becoming physically dependent on the drugs.  As physical dependence increases, the risk of overdose, infectious disease, arrest and potentially fatal consequences also increases.

Those who are addicted to opiates will use more drugs than they intend to, they will spend countless amounts of time using drugs and they may slack off in other important areas of life such as in relationships, at work or at home.  Many opiate addicts are unable to keep a steady job because they are too preoccupied with getting high or finding their next fix.  The extremely physical elements of this addiction make treating opiate dependence a difficult process for both treatment professionals and for the addict himself.

The first step to treating opiate dependence is detoxification.  It’s important that opiate detox take place in a safe, clean and medically supervised environment where the patient can receive immediate treatment in the event that the detoxification process takes a turn for the worst.  Following detox, the patient will require extensive counseling and therapy as well as medication in some cases in order to sustain long term sobriety and health living.

Opiate Detox

Treatment for opiate dependence

You have options when treating your opiate dependence!

Many addicts find that detox is the most difficult process of receiving treatment for opiate dependence.  During detox, the individual will quit using opiates and will allow the remaining toxins that are left behind in the blood stream to run their course.  As the level of opiates is reduced within the body, a series of withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur.  Many of these symptoms are uncomfortable and could even be potentially dangerous if they are not treated in a medical manner.

During opiate detox, the patient is likely to feel the following symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms are often very persistent and make continued abstinence from the opiate use a challenge for the user.  However, if the user can make it through the most difficult days of detox, treatment for opiate dependence is likely to be much more successful and rewarding.

Counseling & Therapy

Following detox, patients will require counseling and behavioral therapy in order to treat the psychological elements of opiate dependence.  Counseling will most often focus on narrowing down the root of the opiate dependence and providing education pertaining to the drug use and the methods of abstinence.  Behavioral therapy is also used to help addicts in recovery to achieve new methods of saying no to drugs, avoiding potentially stressful situations that could result in relapse and changing negative behaviors that would otherwise be likely to result in relapse.


For some, treating opiate dependence takes more than just a couple of weeks in detox followed by some counseling and therapy.  Many addicts report that the cravings that they have to continue using opiates are so strong that they cannot function, cannot sleep and cannot comfortably make it through a day.  Medications are commonly prescribed for those who are so heavily addicted to opiates that basic treatment measures prove to require additional protocol.

The most commonly used medications in the treatment of opiate dependence include naltrexone, methadone and suboxone.  Suboxone and methadone are very common but they also come with their own risks.  There is the risk of developing physical dependence on the drug, risk of overdose or risk of suffering from additional complications as a result of using these medications.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that treating opiate dependence is a challenge for everyone involved.  Healthcare professionals and treatment staff have the desire to do what’s best for the patient but may not always know how to approach each case of opiate addiction in a manner that will provide the smoothest course of action and treatment possible.  It’s important to understand what types of treatment are available for those who suffer from opiate dependence and how treating dependence can come with risks that may not even be realized at first.

If you or someone you know is addicted to opiates, seeking professional help is the ideal solution to ensure safe, effective recovery.  The process may not be fast and simple, but it can be effective and safe!


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