The United States is in the dark grips of an opiate epidemic. Every day, more than 130 Americans die from an overdose, and statistics show no sign that the trend is slowing down. Opiates, a class of drugs that include heroin, prescription painkillers, and synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, are dangerously addictive and can quickly ruin a person’s personal life, physical health, and mental health.
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About The Program
For patients entering opiate addiction recovery, inpatient treatment provides a safe and positive environment, complete with on-site medical assistance and support groups. Inpatient treatment is designed to remove patients from environments that support addiction and to provide 24/7 assistance through the opiate detox and recovery phase.
Outpatient treatment offers many of the same benefits of inpatient treatment but provides greater schedule flexibility. Patients don’t live in a treatment facility but commute several times a week to the facility for help with withdrawal, and to engage in one-on-one counseling sessions and group therapy.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) is a by-day treatment option, in which patients attend programs for the majority of almost every day, but then leave in the evenings to sleep elsewhere. It is considered a step down from inpatient treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are designed for patients to continue recovery therapy after completing opioid detoxification. The programs are rigorous and help individuals who may need intensive oversight for relapse prevention or who might be having a difficult time with recovery symptoms. IOP programs allow for schedule flexibility while ensuring that patients receive ongoing treatment.
Detoxification is the process of ridding the body of all traces of a given drug. Compared to other drugs, opiate detox is relatively fast—in most cases, the body manages the process in about one week—but the symptoms are still challenging to endure. The process of withdrawal, in which the body struggles to wean itself off of drug dependency, produces several common symptoms.
In most opiate cases, withdrawal symptoms begin with 6-12 hours after the final instance of consuming the drug. At that time, patients will begin to experience heart palpitations, hypertension, mood swings, anxiety, fever and sweating, and will have difficulty attempting to sleep. These symptoms usually peak within 72 hours, before giving way to the next stage of symptoms.
After the 72-hour mark, cravings for opiates typically set in. This is the body’s response to the difficulty of withdrawal and is often the time that unsupervised patients will cave to the temptation. This period can also produce nausea and vomiting, goosebumps, stomach cramps, and depression. After about one week, these symptoms begin to taper off.
Inpatient vs Outpatient
There are several key differences between inpatient and outpatient treatment. To decide between the two, consider the severity of addiction, financial means, and schedule availability.
Inpatient treatment, which entails 24/7 supervision in a treatment facility for anywhere from one to six months, is ideal for patients who are struggling with intense addictions. In the facility, they have access to a full panel of support staff and will engage in regular group counseling and solo therapy sessions. Compared with outpatient treatment, it’s a more expensive option.
Outpatient treatment is designed for schedule flexibility and is ideal for those who are struggling with a moderate—though still serious—problem with opiate addiction. Patients attend regular sessions for group counseling and therapy and have access to medical staff, but do not live full-time in the addiction treatment center. An outpatient treatment plan is often more affordable than inpatient options.
Signs of Drug Use
Identifying opiate abuse is the first step towards helping yourself or a loved one receive treatment. Symptoms are generally divided into behavioral, physical, and psychological categories.
Behavioral symptoms may include prioritizing drug use over obligations, consuming more of the drug than intended, or struggling to decrease the amount of consumption.
Physical symptoms may include increased energy, physical agitation, difficulty sleeping, increased heart rate, oversensitivity to stimuli, and decreased appetite.
Psychological symptoms may include anxiety, depression, decreased motivation, panic attacks, psychosis, euphoria, and irritability.
Opiate Abuse Stats
In January 2019, the National Institute on Drug Abuse updated their summary of the opiate crisis. The statistics are alarming.
In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died of an opiate overdose. That’s over 130 people every day. Many of these people were legally prescribed opiates for chronic pain, and of those people, between 21 and 29% abused their prescription. The “economic burden” to the United States is around $78.5 billion dollars per year, which includes healthcare costs, treatment, criminal justice, and lost productivity.
Costs & Insurance Options
While treatment options may vary based on the program, the U.S. Department of Defense judged that a certified opiate treatment program for methadone—a standard opiate—would cost around $126 per week assuming daily visits, which equals $6,552 per year. This includes medical and psychosocial services. This is a solid baseline estimate, but the cost can be almost double that if medically assisted withdrawal is involved, or other drug administrations are required.
Most private insurance plans offer at least partial coverage for drug treatment, and many employers offer group coverage for employees. Of course, this depends on the plan. Most rehab facilities keep an insurance specialist on retainer to help prospective patients understand their plan. These services are frequently offered free of charge.
Helping a Loved One
When dealing with a loved one who is struggling with opiate addiction, many families think a “tough love” approach is the best solution. This entails cutting connections or support to the loved one in order to force them into a desperate situation. Theoretically, they would then seek treatment. However, the current statistics show that the “desperate situation” often leads to overdose.
It’s becoming clear that the best solution is support, love, and patience. Contemporary thinking judges addiction as a disease, not a moral failing; it should be treated as such. In many cases, families seek the help of a professional interventionist. Interventionists can help prepare a meeting with the loved one, in which the family members describe their concern and offer a clear pathway to health and long-term recovery.
American Addiction Centers. Opiate Withdrawal Timelines, Symptoms and Treatment. 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction. 2016.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioid Overdose Crisis. 2019.
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