One of the areas that has seen some advances is the treatment of substance abuse, where professionals are learning how best to treat individuals addicted to drugs or alcohol. But still today, the number of lives affected by drug abuse and alcoholism is increasing, and many people have turned to prescription opiate such as hydrocodone or oxycodone, and it really hasn’t gotten much easier to help those people get sober. It is still a long, hard process that often lasts a lifetime.
Drug detox, and particularly opiate detox, can be a very scary and difficult thing. The reality is that no matter what method they choose, drug addicts still have to go through it if they are going to be sober. A few modern techniques have been designed to make the process easier, however.
First of all, there is Naltrexone. This drug is an opiate antagonist, which means it blocks the drug user from feeling any effects from heroin or oxycodone or other opiate, so that they become unappealing to them. With this method the patient is given a Naltrexone implant by injection, and then the person is forced to withdraw. Some medicines can help a little with the pain of withdrawal, but since the implant lasts 6 months, the person will not find any relief from going back to opiate.
Anesthesia-assisted Rapid Detox
Another method that has been developed more recently is the anesthesia-assisted rapid detox, where the patient is put under general anesthesia while given Naltrexone. The idea is that when they wake up, the patient will have been through the most difficult part of detox and can feel well enough to stay away from the drugs. Some people have found with anesthesia-assisted rapid detox that the benefits aren’t that great, that the person still has symptoms of withdrawal after they wake up, and that there are some serious side effects to using anesthesia, including pulmonary and psychiatric complications.
Another way people are making it through detox is to take buprenorphine, which regulates the clearing of opiate from the brain. This drug is a replacement drug for the opiate, and while it is supposed to be used to wean a person more slowly from drugs, the truth is that many people become stuck using buprenorphine for the rest of their lives.
Other modern methods that are sometimes used are things like acupuncture and electrostimulation to manage the pain. While some people firmly believe these methods help to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, there have been few studies that actually show this works.
All of these methods are actually just the beginning of a drug addict’s journey to become sober. Following the physical opiate detox will be weeks, months, or years of therapy to keep from turning back to drugs. But with the right help, it certainly can be done.
Whitten, Lori Study Finds Withdrawal No Easier With Ultrarapid Opiate October 2006
Desperation to Overcome Addiction Leads to Unusual Solutions 4/14/2009