Does Medically-Assisted Treatment Actually Work?

In the world of addiction treatment, there a number of different methods vying for attention. Among these are methods like holistic treatment, traditional therapeutic methods, and medically assisted treatment. Medically assisted treatment has long been under scrutiny for being both unsuccessful and even downright dangerous for people. But how true are these claims after all? Is medically assisted treatment the big, bad wolf of addiction treatment? Or, instead, could it be the answer for millions of addicts around the United States and world alike?

What is Medically Assisted Treatment?

Medically Assisted Treatment, or Medication-Assisted Treatment, is known as MAT. In this form of addiction treatment, as opposed to undertaking a lifestyle revolving around abstinence, the addict relies upon medications and medical treatment as the answer to his or her addiction. But don’t be fooled, it is not simply taking a pill and going on your way; it also includes utilizing counseling and behavioral therapies.

MAT is more often used in the treatment of opioid addictions, since the idea is that by implementing this medication into an opioid addict’s regimen, it will, in turn, act as a replacement for the opiates they may be abusing like oxycodone or heroin.

MAT actively alter’s the brain chemistry of the patient. It works to block the euphoric effects an individual experiences when ingesting opiates or alcohol. It can also reduce the cravings for the substances in the individual. With the reward portion of using the drugs removed, the idea is that there is no motivation for the addict to use their drug of choice.

What Kinds of MAT Are Available?

As with all other types of treatment options, there a variety of medications that an addict can when looking to try medically assisted treatment. Each case of addiction is as individual as the person suffering from it, therefore there is no “one-size-fits-all” mentality associated with it. What works for one person may not for another, and understanding all the different MAT options available on the market is important before making a potentially life-changing decision.

Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine, or brand name Suboxone or Subutex, is a type of medication-assisted treatment. It comes in pill form and works by placing it underneath your tongue. Since buprenorphine is an opioid with a chemical makeup similar to morphine, codeine, or heroin, it acts as a replacement for opiates. It works by activating the same areas of the brain as these other opiates do while simultaneously reducing cravings and not giving you the same “high” as these opiates.

Taking buprenorphine as part of the medically assisted treatment is contingent upon understanding that it can be a long-term type of treatment. Much like opiates as well, it cannot just simply be stopped cold-turkey. The individual will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms similar to a typical opiate withdrawal, sometimes with symptoms being even more severe than those associated with heroin.

To undergo buprenorphine treatment, you must be under the care of a physician. The doctor will assess your current opioid addiction and decide what strength of buprenorphine is appropriate for you. It is also crucial to understand that while under its effects, you must avoid opiate use as well as alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers since adverse reactions can occur among these medications that can result in death.

Methadone

Perhaps even more intense than buprenorphine, MAT with methadone is another option available to addicts across the country. Methadone is an opioid medication that will both reduce withdrawal symptoms without giving its users a high.

Methadone is available at methadone clinics. These clinics are staffed with doctors and medical professionals who are experts on methadone and using it as an effective treatment. Since methadone can be addictive as well, it is only available under close medical care at these clinics.

Clinics exist in most cities around the country, and for the most part methadone treatment is either free or available on a sliding scale. If accepted into the program, the patient must agree to the strict terms associated with methadone maintenance. These include punctuality to appointment times, commitment to the program including mandatory therapy sessions, and taking the medication as prescribed.

In the beginning, the methadone doctor will assess your opioid addiction and decide the proper dose of methadone for you. It is possible to receive your first dose the first day you arrive at the clinic. You will then need to go to the clinic on a daily basis where the medication will be dispensed to you by the clinic and by the clinic only. If you miss doses or do not arrive to the clinic, you will not receive your dose and may even be barred from the program.

These programs are long-term, typically 12-18 months in length. If you cannot commit to the methadone program, it is not advised to start. Since methadone poses a high potential for dependence and intense withdrawals, it is important to weigh if it is, in fact, right for you. Over time, upon successful completion of appointments at the clinic, you may be allowed to bring doses home with you. But it is important to know that once this type of treatment is started, it cannot simply be stopped.

Naltrexone

The final type of medication-assisted treatment is naltrexone. Known more widely by its brand name Vivitrol, it can be taken by mouth or injection into a muscle. Effects will begin immediately, and it decreases the desire for alcohol and opiates. It may be a better option than methadone or buprenorphine due to having the ability to only needing to be taken once per month (injectable) as opposed to daily (oral).

It is important to understand that you must be clean, meaning not having any opiates or alcohol in your system, for 10 to 14 days prior to starting naltrexone. This can prove to be difficult for many addicts and alcoholics who are unable to stop using for even one day, let alone a full two weeks. The issue is that the presence of alcohol or opiates in your system may interfere with the medication and cause potentially life-threatening complications.

But Does it Work?

The short answer is, yes. MAT has shown to be very effective in treating opioid and alcohol addictions across the board. The issue that many people may have with it is that it acts as a replacement therapy option, instead of overcoming addiction altogether. Rather than being addicted to heroin, you’re addicted to methadone. This merely continues the cycle of addiction and does not actually lead to complete sobriety.

It is important to weigh the pros and cons associated with MAT before undertaking this type of addiction treatment. Obviously, complete abstinence is ideal and the best form of recovery. MAT should not be considered a first-resort.

Are You Or Someone You Love Struggling?

If you or someone you love is currently struggling with addiction, Pathway to Hope is here for you! By providing the best in addiction treatment, you will be in good hands from beginning to end. Our admissions professionals are standing by 24/7, awaiting your call. By calling 844-557-8575 or contacting us online, you will be connected to cutting-edge treatment designed to get you back on track toward the life you deserve: one of sobriety and happiness! Don’t delay, call us now and get on the road toward recovery today!

5 Benefits of Rehab Alumni Groups: Staying Plugged In

Going through addiction treatment can be an exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience. Finally getting the help you want and need is crucial. As you undergo your treatment, you probably will experience many levels of care. Beginning with a medical detox at a private or public facility, you’ll step down into inpatient, intensive outpatient, and then ultimately routine outpatient. During these step-downs, you’ll encounter more freedom and less supervision, which can be difficult for many addicts to adjust to. When you finally graduate your treatment program, you may be faced with anxiety and uncertainty of where to go next and how to handle your assimilation to reality. That’s where rehab alumni groups come into play!

What Are Rehab Alumni Groups?

Since treatment is merely only the beginning of one’s journey in sobriety, the real test is once you leave the safety of the facility. Rehab alumni groups were designed to help former clients stay in the loop with other recovering addicts and alcoholics and to have a point of contact at the treatment facility with the rehab alumni coordinator. By providing clients a person they can call at all hours, it gives a safety net for anyone struggling, especially in the crucial first few weeks.

Rehab alumni groups often perform numerous activities together to demonstrate the power of fun in sobriety as well as the importance of community. It brings together other recovering addicts who went through the program and keeps them in close contact with one another so that their support systems in recovery can grow!

Rehab alumni groups also often host meetings on a weekly or monthly basis so the clients may meet face-to-face in a safe environment and work together therapeutically. This can help keep clients accountable as well as provide consistency and routine, which are other important aspects of early recovery.

So, What are the Benefits of Rehab Alumni Groups?

Now that you understand just what these programs offer, it’s time to look at all of the wonderful benefits rehab alumni groups have in store for you! There’s a reason these programs are so widely provided and successful.

Feeling of Community

The first and most important benefit of rehab alumni groups is maintaining a sense of community. By strengthening the relationships that clients already have with one another, it can make them feel a part of a recovery community. Having a feeling of camaraderie is imperative to having long-lasting sobriety. Many people have no sober associations prior to heading off to treatment. So, by allowing access to an entire network of other sober people, rehab alumni groups can help the newcomer find his or her place with other actively recovering people.

Staying Connected

Similarly to the benefit above, rehab alumni groups help its members stay connected. What this means is members of rehab alumni groups not only have access to their peers, but also access to alumni coordinators and therapists to continue to get professional support. Having a point of contact at the treatment facility can help many clients feel a level of safety during their transition back into everyday life. Knowing they have someone to call at any given moment can keep many recovering alcoholics and addicts out of trouble if they find themselves in a tight spot.

Learning How to Have Fun in Sobriety

Rehab alumni groups are primarily known for all of the awesome activities and outings they frequently schedule. Many people believe that once you enter recovery and are completely sober, it’s the end of any and all fun. That could not be further from the truth! In sobriety, addicts and alcoholics learn how to have real fun, without needing to have that synthetic happiness provided by drugs or alcohol. Rehab alumni groups will plan trips and activities for its members that all are welcome to attend that revolve around having sober fun.

Learning how to have fun in sobriety is important. If you were not enjoying yourself, why would you want to continue on in recovery? These groups teach members what real fun is and create an atmosphere with other sober people to enjoy these activities with!

Ease the Assimilation Back into Everyday Life

Again, it can be hard to successfully make the transition from living at an inpatient treatment facility to that of everyday life once again. Treatment centers often act as a protective bubble, successfully shielding clients from temptation and providing a safe space for them to focus solely and completely on their treatment. Once the safety net of the treatment center is removed, the real test begins.

It’s easy to stay sober in rehab, but what about in the real world? It gets tricky. That’s why rehab alumni groups are awesome tools to help ease the transition. Many rehab alumni groups with have information and referrals for the client to enter into sober living homes, which can act as a further buffer for recovering people. Also, having someone to reach out to and talk to (the alumni coordinator) as well as fill up his or her schedule with recovery-oriented activities can be very beneficial.

Flexibility

Lastly, a benefit of rehab alumni groups is the flexibility they provide. Unlike an intensive outpatient or routine outpatient program, rehab alumni groups offer elective activities and services, meaning you are not obligated to attend! This allows for a recovering addict or alcoholic to select which services and outing they both want to and are able to attend. If they want to be very actively involved and go to all the different group outings, or maybe attend one or two per year, they have the power to create their own schedule.

Can You Benefit from a Rehab Alumni Group?

At Pathway to Hope, we understand the need for our clients to have that extra support even after they graduate from our program. That’s why we pride ourselves on our awesome rehab alumni program! We know and understand that treatment is just the first step on a long journey through recovery, and we are committed to seeing our clients all the way through to the end!

If you or someone you know may be struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, give us a call 24/7 at 844-557-8575 or contact us online and let our addiction professionals help you learn about the treatment options that best fit you!

Heroin Detox Drugs: What to Expect During Withdrawal

Addiction continues to claim thousands of lives every year as the US grapples with the worst drug overdose crisis in its history.

In 2014, the year when it became official that overdose deaths claimed more lives than traffic accidents, more than 10,500 people died from heroin, according to data cited by the US Department of Health & Human Services.

But that’s only a glimpse at how much heroin addiction is affecting Americans. According to a Reuters report published in 2017, heroin use in the US has increased five-fold in the past 10 years.

Data also show dependence on the drug has more than tripled and that the largest jumps in use are among white people and men from low-income households who have little education, the report said. The nation’s heroin epidemic is also hitting more young adults than other age groups.

Link Between Prescription Drugs, Heroin Abuse

Many turn to heroin, an illegal drug processed from morphine that comes from poppy plants, after they have developed addictions to opioid medications such as Percocet, Vicodin, and oxycodone. That’s because prescription opioid pain medications have effects that are similar to heroin.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Nearly 80 percent of Americans using heroin (including those in treatment) reported misusing prescription opioids first.”

Recent data support this trend, as Reuters says in its report, “Whites aged 18 to 44 accounted for the biggest rise in heroin addiction, which has been fueled in part by the misuse of opioid prescription drugs.”

Why Kicking Heroin Habit Requires Professional Help

Once hooked, quitting heroin can be hard. While it is possible to end dependence after long-term use, this effort usually requires enlisting the help of medical professionals who can help monitor the entire process, which includes a withdrawal period that is emotionally and physically uncomfortable or painful. These professionals, which include a team of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers, ensure you are safe as you recover from heroin use.

Uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which vary according to how long the person has been using and how much they use, are likely to occur, once a person stops or gradually stops using. Among them are:

Mild heroin withdrawal symptoms:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chills
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Nausea
  • Sweats
  • Runny nose
  • Tearing
  • Yawning

Chronic heroin symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Severe heroin symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty feeling pleasure
  • Impaired respiration
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Muscle spasms
  • Rapid heart rate

Should You Quit Heroin “Cold Turkey”?

Quitting abruptly on your own, a practice known as going cold turkey is not advised. It is not viewed as safe, and the risks involved include organ failure and relapse, which can end in overdose. Withdrawing without medical help can be uncomfortable and painful, but typically not life-threatening. However, abrupt interruptions that trigger a withdrawal can worsen other underlying health conditions that users may not be aware of, which can result in unexpected complications. It is safer to detox with a professional at your side.

Treating Heroin Addiction with Other Opiates

Clients who undergo detoxification for heroin withdrawal at an accredited drug rehab center may be given longer-acting opioids to help ease and manage withdrawal symptoms that set in after the drug is no longer being used as much as it was before. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin detox drugs can help improve the odds of achieving abstinence.

“There are now a variety of medications that can be tailored to a person’s recovery needs while taking into account co-occurring health conditions. Medication combined with behavioral therapy is particularly effective, offering hope to individuals who suffer from addiction and for those around them,” it writes.

Below is an overview of drugs that are used during the heroin detox withdrawal process.

  • Buprenorphine maintenance: Buprenorphine, an opioid drug that is similar to heroin, allows heroin users to safely wean off it and prevent or reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. This drug also helps reduce cravings for heroin. Buprenorphine comes in a tablet that is placed under the tongue to dissolve between three to seven minutes once a day. When it is absorbed, it directly enters the bloodstream.
  • Methadone maintenance: This long-acting opioid pain reliever is used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms for opiate users as they taper off heroin during detoxification for drug addiction. With methadone, pain relievers are blocked from interacting with the brain, which helps reduce the cravings that accompany withdrawal symptoms. Methadone should be used with care as it is habit-forming, even at regular dose.
  • Naloxone: This prescription medication, an opioid antagonist, is administered to reverse opioid overdose. It binds to opioid receptors in the brain and can reverse and block the effects of other opioids. “It can very quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of overdosing with heroin or prescription opioid pain medications,” writes NIDA. Naloxone comes in three formulations and all have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. One form is an injectable, which requires professional training. Another form is an auto-injectable called Evzio, which is a pre-filled auto-injection device that makes it easy to inject it into the outer thigh quickly in case of emergency. The third form comes in a prepackaged nasal spray that is sprayed into a nostril while the person lie on their back.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is in a class of drugs called opiate antagonists that helps prevent relapses into alcohol or drug abuse. The pill, given once a day, blocks opioid molecules from attaching to opioid receptors, which means users who take naltrexone won’t feel the euphoric and sedative effects of heroin. Some clients receive this medication once a month in an injectable form called Vivitrol. The dosage is based on the person’s medical condition and response to the treatment received. The medication must be used regularly to get the maximum benefit from it.

WebMd warns that sudden opiate withdrawal effects can occur within minutes after taking naltrexone. If this happens, tell your doctor immediately.

Those effects include: abdominal cramps, nausea/vomiting, runny nose, diarrhea, joint/bone/muscle aches, and mental/mood changes (such as anxiety, confusion, and visual hallucinations).

  • Suboxone: Suboxone, also known as Subutex, is a medication that is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid analgesic and antagonist. Similar to methadone, suboxone is a depressant used to limit cravings and withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin. The drug is a strip that dissolves underneath the tongue. Suboxone is habit-forming and should be used with care.

Medications may also be used to treat nausea and depression clients may experience during heroin detoxification.

What’s Next After You Take Heroin Detox Drugs?

After heroin detox is completed, clients should be medically stable and in position to consider a recovery treatment program at a licensed facility. Completing a program is widely viewed as giving users the best shot to stick with their decision to stop using and make the necessary changes to address the causes of their addiction. There are a variety of treatment options available, including inpatient and outpatient programs.

In an inpatient program, which is also called residential, clients who are recovering from moderate-to-severe heroin addiction receive around-the-clock care from medical professionals. They also are away from everyday distractions so they can focus on their addiction and learn new life skills and strategies in a supportive environment. This is important as they will need these tools to help them navigate the outside world once their recovery program ends.

These clients may continue their treatment in an outpatient recovery program that requires regularly scheduled mental health counseling sessions and physician checkups but with more flexibility than inpatient treatment programs.

Using Heroin Detox Drugs with Behavioral Therapies

In addition to heroin detox drugs, behavioral therapies are used to help people kick their heroin addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps users modify their drug-use expectations and behaviors. This kind of therapy also helps users identify and manage their triggers and stress. Contingency management, another kind of behavioral therapy, provides incentives, such as vouchers or small cash rewards, to help keep them focused on their recovery goals. “These behavioral treatment approaches are especially effective when used along with medicines,” NIDA says.

Do You or Someone You Know Abuse Heroin?

The pull of heroin addiction is strong, and anyone of any age or background can find it hard to stop using once they are in the drug’s clutches. It’s all right to ask for help in leaving heroin addiction behind. At Pathway to Hope, we know how to help you or your loved one.

Call our 24-hour helpline at (844) 557-8575, and one of our call agents will assist you immediately with what you need. They can answer questions you have about heroin addiction treatment, including how to make it affordable or how the detox process works. Begin your recovery today and take your life back.

Life After Drug Rehab: Where to Start?

Life after drug rehab can be daunting to a recovering addict attempting to figure out where and how to start his new life. Many drug treatment centers will offer aftercare planning, which may be continuing outpatient services, moving into a halfway house, and adjusting to a new city. Yet, probably the most important thing is getting mentally ready for life after rehab.

If you’re still unsure of how to tackle this new chapter in your life, here are a few steps to get you started on the right track.

Understand that Drug Rehab Is Not a Cure for Addiction

Currently, there is no cure for addiction, but it can be managed effectively so that a person remains sober after treatment. Still, living in recovery requires serious effort, dedication, and patience in order to successfully abstain from drugs and alcohol. Don’t be misguided into thinking drug rehab will be the cure-all, end-all to your addiction and that life after treatment will be a breeze.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there is about a 40 to 60 percent chance of relapse within the first year after drug treatment. Does this mean that drug treatment is a waste of time? No, but it does mean that when you leave treatment, there’s no room for letting your guard down and playing games with your own life.

Build a Support System and Go to Meetings

One of the first things to do in life after drug rehab is build a support system. This could mean reaching out to sober friends, family members who helped you get into treatment, or going to support group meetings.

It is imperative that you routinely go to support group meetings in your first year in recovery. It may take a couple of visits to different programs to see where you feel comfortable and belong to, but especially within the first few months, it’s recommended to go to a meeting every day after treatment.

Life after drug rehab can be vulnerable and confusing for most people who are now having to adjust to unfiltered life situations full of triggers, temptations, and challenges. Going to a meeting every day can help you gain structure and keep on track in your sobriety.

Groups like 12-step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, or SMART Recovery are great places to start, but look out for local listings to see where your support system will be.

Don’t Be in a Rush to Go Back Home

Returning back home, back to your old job, and back to your old life may not be the best thing to do in life after drug rehab. Think about it: where are all of your triggers and temptations going to come from? The reality of life after drug rehab that you may have to start with a clean slate and let go of old relationships and ties that could be detrimental to your sobriety.

If possible, work out with your addiction counselor how to get a part-time or temporary job to get you on your feet after treatment. You might want to consider moving into a sober living home or halfway house as you transition into living in a new city. This is your opportunity to commit to a new lifestyle and be in a place where people don’t question your motives, doubt your commitment, or try to get you to slip and fail.

Keep as Much Structure as You Can

Many people in recovery don’t think about keeping up good nutrition or an exercise routine in their first 30 days in life after rehab, but they should! A life of using drugs and/or drinking excessively will do some serious damage to the body—and no matter how amazing your treatment center was, that damage won’t be fixed in 30 to 90 days.

After treatment, try to stick to as much of your rehab schedule as you can. Eating healthy and exercising regularly is good for the body and acts as a natural, holistic healing factor. You may not have to be a yoga instructor or an organic foodie, but making sure to consume mostly fruits and vegetables, going on walks or jogs, and sleeping eight hours a day will keep your sobriety in balance.

Keeping this kind of structure will also help you realize that you can have control over your life. You are in charge of your destiny, even if your destiny is just making sure you eat an avocado for breakfast.

Reach Out If You Need Help

There is no shame in asking for help in recovery. Even people with serious clean time under their belt sometimes need to reach out to their support groups, friends, and family to help them deal with temptation and avoid a relapse.

Life after drug rehab is hard. Anyone who says it isn’t doesn’t understand the kind of mental, physical, and even spiritual changes you’ll be going through—and it might mean you’ll need help.

You might need guidance or comfort when dealing with the death of a loved one or an anniversary. If you’re going through a divorce or another stressful life event, you may need someone to reach out to. It might mean seeing a therapist regularly to keep tabs on your mentality and make sure you remain in the right headspace.

Reach out. In a community of recovering addicts, there will be people who understand what you’re going through and will be there as a shoulder to lean on when you need it. You don’t have to feel abandoned anymore.

Worried Life After Drug Rehab Will Fail? Don’t Be

If what’s holding you back from getting treatment is wondering what’s going to happen after, then call Pathway to Hope’s 24-hour helpline at (844) 557- 8575 or contact us online and have one of our call agents show you what the whole drug rehab process is like. You will be guided every step of the way both in and out of addiction treatment, so don’t let the unknown stop you from starting your recovery. The greatest things in life come from overcoming fear and taking the first step.