Addiction is an illness that can affect people in very different ways. Much depends on factors such as the substance being abused or whether an individual also has a mental illness to cope with or if they hold a caregiving role within the family. Due to the fact addiction doesn’t discriminate, all kinds of people with widely varying needs enter addiction treatment programs every year and generally, no two treatment paths are the same.

There are now numerous treatment options for people seeking to overcome addiction including residential or outpatient rehab. Residential care is as it implies whereas outpatient alcohol treatment leaves people free to remain at home while they receive treatment in sessions arranged around their daily routine. Standard outpatient care is not suitable for everyone, particularly individuals who have been dealing with opiate addiction with all its treatment complexities.

However, there is a type of program that has been designed for patients with more severe addiction called an intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP is often recommended for patients leaving rehab for opiate abuse as a form of aftercare, with therapy sessions scheduled throughout the week but without the full-time supervision of medical staff. IOPs are particularly valuable for people who have been combating opiate addiction as they are very likely to need considerable support in the early days of recovery after rehab.

In this article, we take a look at the nature of opiate addiction and why outpatient opiate rehab is an essential component of treatment.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a synthetic version of the street drug heroin which is made from extracts of poppy plants known as opiates.  Opioids are designed to emulate the effects of heroin to combat chronic pain and work in the same way, by flooding the body with dopamine and effectively numbing all sensations of pain. Heroin in its original form has been used to treat pain for centuries and opioids are the modern-day equivalent generally available as prescription medication.

Types of Opioids:

  • Morphine
  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Oxycodone (Percocet)

The possible side effects of opiate and opioid abuse include the following:

  • Drowsiness as if heavily sedated
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Blurred vision and slurred speech
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle pain and fatigue
  • Heartburn and acid reflux
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Skin rash

Tolerance, Dependency, and Addiction

Although people struggling with substance abuse are likely to conceal their behavior, it can sometimes be possible to see the following signs and symptoms:

  • Continuing to use opiates despite the negative physical and psychological effects
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities that were previously engaging
  • Using opiates in public view or in dangerous places
  • Declining performance at work, home or school and a failure to meet responsibilities
  • General lethargy, mood swings, depression, anxiety and interrupted sleep patterns

Although the above symptoms may not seem to be particularly harsh on the body, opiates are drugs that do significant damage over time. Identifying someone has a problem sooner rather than later will ensure they get the help they need in time to prevent more serious complications from developing.

Developing Opiate Tolerance and Dependence

One of the most significant challenges to people managing chronic pain conditions with opioid drugs is how to manage their symptoms without needing to increase their dose. This is because tolerance to substances can quickly develop when they are regularly introduced to the body as it learns to assimilate the chemicals faster.

Opioid medications manage pain by effectively distracting the mind from pain signals with an intense burst of dopamine that floods the neurotransmitters with feelings of euphoria. The effects of heroin and prescription opioids are extremely compelling because of the unparalleled sensations the drug creates. Over time, the body gets used to receiving its regular dose of pleasurable feelings and it will take progressively more of the substance to achieve them, which marks the start of a developing tolerance.

One of the main symptoms of tolerance is the fact that individuals will start to experience withdrawal symptoms when they are not using opiates. These can be considerable and sometimes even life-threatening which can often lead to individuals taking more opiates to make them go away. Once a person is trapped in a cycle of tolerance and withdrawal, they are at risk of developing opiate use disorder or addiction.

How Outpatient Treatment of Opiate Addiction Can Help

Due to the potent nature of opiates and opioids and their significant effects on brain chemistry, it is always recommended that patients detox as an inpatient. This is because it is impossible to determine the severity of withdrawal and having medical staff supervising the process ensures patients receive treatment for difficult symptoms as and when they emerge. Detoxing from opiates can be a frightening experience and it is simply not advisable for people to attempt to quit on their own.

Once detox has been achieved, patients can then opt for an intensive outpatient drug rehab for continuing treatment while they remain at home. Although it may be a better option for people to attend a residential program to receive treatment for opiate abuse, for some it just isn’t possible. Individuals in important caregiving roles or who run businesses with employees are often not able to drop everything to attend residential rehab and an IOP presents the perfect alternative.

Generally speaking, IOPs offer the same range of services that inpatients receive in rehab and sessions are arranged each week, with the frequency best meeting the individual’s needs. Although some people with opiate use disorder may require residential rehab after detox, they are more than likely to need a form of outpatient opiate rehab as aftercare when they complete a treatment program. An IOP is more intensive than the standard outpatient drug rehab and is specifically designed for people overcoming substance abuse in recovery.