Getting clean from opiate addiction is probably one of the most challenging things any person can do. If you ask any former addict they’ll tell you the stranglehold drugs can have on your mind, body, and soul.
Drug addiction robs you of your passions, your personality, your friends, your money and so much more. Still, getting clean is such a painful process that many addicts simply refuse to even try. If you’re reading this article, that’s not you. You’ve already taken the first step on your road to recovery just by recognizing you need to make a change.
With that in mind, today we are going to go over four ways to get clean from opiates. Some of these ways are more painful, some more expensive, but no matter which path you choose what’s important is that you stay on the road to recovery. I’m not going to sugar coat it, getting clean from opiates will be hell no matter what you do, but remember, it’s through the trials and tribulations in life that we truly find ourselves.
Going cold turkey is definitely the most difficult way to get clean from opiates. If you’re an addict you’re well aware of the devastating effects of ‘dope sickness’. The fact is most opiate addicts aren’t even looking to get high after they’ve been abusing heroin or prescription pills for awhile. Instead, they are just trying to keep symptoms of dope sickness at bay.
When you go cold turkey you will feel the mother of all dope sicknesses. Withdrawal symptoms are wide-ranging and debilitating. The most common of these include:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle spasms
I’m sure all of these symptoms sound daunting, but also familiar. Just remember going cold turkey to get clean is not impossible. There are countless stories online of people who have gone through withdrawal completely cold turkey and made it out just fine. Sometimes, however, as an addict, you really need to hear it from the horse’s mouth so to speak. A fellow addict’s story and point of view can be really helpful in giving you the confidence to start on your journey towards sobriety.
That’s why I recommend you read Brian Rinker’s story on Kaiser Health’s website. Brian was able to get clean without the use of medication or in-patient treatment. Stories like this show that going cold turkey is possible, painful, but possible. So don’t be afraid to give it a try, it’s well worth the misery.
Medical detox also called medication-assisted treatment(MAT) is the most popular and effective method for getting clean from opiates. There are two main drugs used in the medical detox process—methadone and suboxone. Methadone was discovered in 1965 at the Rockefeller Institute, it has been proven to relieve the symptoms of opiate withdrawal and help addicts get clean.
However, according to Harvard’s health department, only around 25% of methadone patients eventually become completely clean, while 25% continue to take the drug, and 50% go on and off methadone repeatedly. Still, the World Health Organization has listed methadone as one of its essential medications, giving validity to its use.
Suboxone treatment is a newer, far more effective treatment according to the majority of physicians. That’s because suboxone, also called Buprenorphine, is only a partial opioid agonist. This means the drug has a ‘ceiling effect’ where essentially a user can only get so much out of the drug. That greatly reduces the chances of an overdose, and has improved patient results. If you are struggling in the depths of addiction, and you feel like going cold turkey is just not a possibility, consider MAT, getting clean from opiates is well worth the risks of the treatment.
This option may not work for everyone, because residential treatment is very expensive, but evidence has shown that in-patient treatment is far superior to out-patient recovery. Just getting out of the environment that has led to your addiction can be a lifesaver. Old habits die hard, and sometimes it takes a new environment to make lasting changes. Residential treatment may involve ‘holistic therapy’ which includes counseling, eating right and activities like yoga, weight lifting, equine therapy, and so much more.
The goal is to give the user a new life, with new ambitions, goals, and hobbies. This kind of treatment doesn’t work for everyone, but if you are strong-willed, in-patient treatment may be all you need to kick your addiction.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was first developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., ABPP, at the University of Washington as a means to treat mental disorders in chronically suicidal clients. Since its invention in the ’70s however, the therapy has spread around the world and become popular among drug rehabilitation centers because of its ability to help former users deal with their emotions.
Opiate users, in particular, have a difficult time dealing with their emotions during and even after withdrawal, which often leads to relapses. This is because opioids cause the body to release dopamine and opioid peptides which are responsible for positive feelings and the ability to put thoughts into action.
When an opiate addict stops taking their drug of choice, their body isn’t used to making these chemicals on its own as it should which causes lethargy and violent emotional swings. Due to the emotional distress factor in recovery, DBT has become a common treatment for drug users during and after withdrawal. DBT works by helping former or current users label their emotions, recognize the way they frame those emotions and the harm it may be causing, and then regulate their feelings through therapy sessions with experienced professionals.
No matter which path to recovery you choose, it’s vital that you never give up. It may take you two tries or it may take you twenty, but with each struggle to say ‘no’ you are building up a little more resilience, a little more confidence, and a little more strength to finally kick your habit. Drug addiction can steal everything from you and this life is far too short and beautiful to let anything do that.