It is important to understand that opiate addiction is a chronic physical condition just as heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are. There is generally not as much sympathy given toward opiate addicts, however, because people view these addictions as preventable. Unfortunately, there are negative views held against addicts which make it more difficult for those needing help to feel safe to seek it out.
Regardless, opiate addiction is a very serious matter that requires long-term opiate treatment to overcome. Some critics argue that replacement medications are wrong because they are supplying patients with one drug in place of another. What these people may not realize is that recovery from opiate abuse is not a simple matter. Opiate addiction occurs when someone takes the drugs for long enough that they have developed an actual physical dependence on them. The chemical changes that occur in the brain do not reverse themselves each time a person stops using opiates. The reason that opiate use is so difficult to overcome is because the chemical state of the brain is so significantly altered even with just a few uses. Once addicted, people require replacement medications in order to be able to safely kick the habit.
Replacement therapy medications such as methadone and buprenorphine (suboxone) help patients to reach a stabilized physical condition, which then allows them to be able to go through counseling and rehabilitation programs successfully. Generally, when the dose is appropriate, patients do not feel the high associated with other opiates, and they can become stable, think more clearly, and function with more normality. The reality is that without these replacement therapy medications, most people would not have a chance of being able to overcome their opiate addiction. Replacement therapy allows patients to be monitored regularly by their doctor. Once on a replacement therapy program, patients are no longer controlled by the wild emotional swings, debilitating withdrawal symptoms or intense cravings that opiates produced in them. The patient receives regulated doses that control the chemical reactions in the brain, and they are free from the all-consuming urge to find more drugs at any cost. This not only helps patients through recovery, it also helps to reduce the crime rates because it keeps people from resorting to illegal activities in an effort to acquire more drugs.
Replacement therapy alone, however, is often not a completely sufficient treatment. Patients also need individual counseling in order to complete a full recovery. In addition, many professionals recommend that patients also participate in group therapy sessions. Group therapy can be extremely beneficial for recovering addicts because it allows them to gain a new perspective and strategies on dealing with their own situation by listening to other people who have the same addiction. This can assist the addict in the result of not feeling so alone during their recovery process and increase ones own individual support system.
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