Sometimes, the best path to recovery for a person with opioid use disorder may entail a supervised medical withdrawal used to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms. This process takes place within a facility where a patient is under the care of a medical provider and staff to ensure they remain stable through the medical withdrawal process and then ideally transition them to longer-term medication-assisted treatment.
Purpose of Medical Withdrawal
Opioid withdrawal without medical intervention, while rarely fatal, can be tasking on the body and mind. Symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety, gastrointestinal stress, vomiting, headaches, and extreme cravings. These symptoms often make it seem impossible for people to make it through several days of withdrawal and they often relapse to relieve their pain. Medical providers at qualified treatment facilities use a combination of opioid agonists such as methadone and buprenorphine, as well as other medications to treat these symptoms while the patient’s body rids itself of opioids with minimal discomfort.
While medical withdrawal is undeniably effective, it’s only one step of many that a patient should take to reach recovery. Those who choose to detoxify themselves with the medical withdrawal treatment and plan to abstain from further opioid use on their own are rarely successful and are at risk of very high relapse rates. Patients who go through medical withdrawal and are then transitioned to MAT with additional substance use counseling and support groups are much more successful in achieving long-term recovery because a comprehensive approach helps to heal not only the chemical side of addiction but the emotional and behavioral sides as well.
Chronic Relapse Risks
Many long-term opioid users with undiagnosed substance use disorder will attempt to abstain from drugs on their own before they enroll in treatment. Due to the very addictive nature of opioids, quitting “cold turkey” will often lead people down the road of dangerous and chronic relapse. Those people will often consider using medical withdrawal to bypass the problematic part of withdrawal symptoms and attempt to do the rest on their own. Still, they will often find themselves back at the clinic starting over again. This kind of situation can eventually become dangerous due to frequent relapse and changes in dosages, putting people at risk of fatal overdose.
If a patient has been participating in a MAT program and relapses, medical withdrawal can sometimes help get them back on the right path to continue where they left off.
For many with opioid use disorder, the road to recovery will be filled with ups and downs. Medical withdrawal one step down that road that can help set patients get on the right track towards overcoming addiction. The best way for people to utilize this detoxification method is also to take the next step forward and enroll in MAT to ensure that their treatment journey is guided in the direction of successful, long-lasting recovery.
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