When oxycodone first hit the market in the 1960s, it was heralded as a medication that could control pain safely. Almost immediately, however, the drug became a favorite of drug abusers. In 1996, when the time-release version of oxycodone hit the market, the drug problem began to escalate. Now, some might even say that oxycodone addiction has reached epidemic levels.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the seizure of oxycodone by law enforcement grew 116 percent between 2004 and 2008. People of all ages, economic classes and geographic locations have easy access to the drug, and it’s been proven to be remarkably addictive.
With this boom in addiction has come a secondary increase in oxycodone addiction-related research. Scientists have developed new medications that can combat cravings, therapists have created new techniques to help addicts change their thinking, and comprehensive programming allows addicts to change other aspects of their lives in profound and healing ways. In short, while addiction to oxycodone may be on the rise, oxycodone rehabilitation programs are more complete and helpful than they have ever been before. In a modern rehabilitation program, an oxycodone addict can get the necessary help to make real and lasting changes.
Rehabilitation programs begin, in a technical sense, when detoxification programs end. In a detoxification program, the addict has an opportunity to withdraw from oxycodone use and emerges with a system that is completely free of the drug. This purging is just the first step on a journey toward healing, and a rehabilitation program provides the tools the addict will need to reach that destination. There are many settings an addict can choose from in order to receive rehabilitation services.
Some facilities provide both detoxification and rehabilitation programs. In these facilities, addicts transition from one program to another, receiving all the help they need under one roof. Other programs provide only rehabilitation services, and they accept people who have completed detoxification programs. In both of these inpatient programs, addicts live in the facility, and they are often not allowed to step off the grounds. This is a targeted, intensive, controlled environment that allows the addict to step away from the stress and temptation that exists at home and truly focus on healing, 24 hours per day. This is the sort of program we provide at Michael’s House, and we can offer a significant amount of information on why we believe in this model and how it works. Please call us for more information.
Inpatient programs for addiction can sometimes seem clinical, like living in a hospital, and some of them are not designed to provide care for an extended period of time. There are some oxycodone addicts who feel the need for help for a long period of time, and they’d like to live in a setting that feels more like home. These people may benefit from therapeutic communities. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these communities often provide a structured environment, where the addict has a schedule to keep and a strict set of rules to follow. They live with other addicts and develop healthy living habits that don’t include drugs. For some people, the structure provided in these facilities is incredibly helpful. For others, the idea of helping themselves and helping others is the most beneficial aspect. Some programs provide medical staff, while others rely on the residents to support one another and keep one another in line.
Some addicts may be unable to commit to an inpatient treatment program like this. They might have:
- Childcare concerns
- Financial limitations or lack of insurance coverage
- Strong ties to family
- Lack of paid time off from work, or employment concerns
If these people have a strong and supportive family, and a drive to achieve success, they may benefit from an outpatient addiction treatment program. Here, they receive care periodically, while they continue to live at home. In some programs, the addict goes to meetings or counseling sessions all day, every day. In other programs, the addict only participates in these activities on a weekly or monthly basis. Either route can be effective.
According to a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, 54 percent of people who received care in this model were able to achieve sobriety. Success, the researchers report, had more to do with other aspects in the addict’s life, rather than the location where the addict received care.
Medications Play a Role
Recovering from an addiction to oxycodone means more than just living in a different place or making time to keep appointments. Oxycodone is a drug in the opioid family, meaning that long-term use of the drug can change the way that the brain works on a chemical level. Over time, the brain develops a tolerance for, and an addiction to, the drug and it will clamor for the drug when it is removed. The addict can face cravings for the drug that persist long after detoxification programs are over. For this reason, many rehabilitation programs for oxycodone addiction include medications.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), taking medications for addiction is not the same thing as substituting one drug for another. In fact, addicts who use medications for addiction are much like diabetes patients who use medications to control their disease. The medications are used to keep the disease under control and prevent a relapse of symptoms. SAMHSA reports that methadone and buprenorphine are the two medications most commonly used to treat opiate addiction. These two drugs act on the same receptors used by oxycodone and they fool the brain into thinking it has access to the drug it craves. The user doesn’t feel a high or a rush as a result of these medications, but cravings can be dramatically decreased.
Some addicts benefit from a medication known as naltrexone, which works in a completely different way. This drug blocks the body from picking up and using oxycodone that the user takes in. Therefore, if people relapse and take in the drug, the drug won’t work at all.
Some drugs work fantastically well in some people, and not well at all in other people. For example, while many studies have suggested that low doses of buprenorphine have been helpful in treating people with opioid addiction, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that low doses were not helpful. It’s clear that addicts and their doctors will need to remain in close contact so the right drug, at the right dose, can be provided.Some people take medications for a short period of time, until they develop skills in rehabilitation that can help them keep temptation at bay. Other people take the medications for much longer periods, or even for the rest of their lives. Again, this is a personal decision the addict makes in consultation with the doctor.
Additional Resource: Opiate Detox FAQs
Making Changes in Therapy
Medication management may be important, but it’s not the only work that takes place in a rehabilitation program. The addict also needs to make adjustments in his or her thought patterns and behaviors. Therapy can help the addict learn how to change behavior, and therapy can give the addict the tools needed to change destructive thought patterns that can lead to a relapse.
Some oxycodone addicts enter therapy programs due to outside influences such as:
- The criminal justice system
- Pressure from employers
- Requests from family members
- Advice from friends
These people may have true addictions, but they may not believe that they have a real problem. While they might be physically present in an addiction program, their minds might be in a completely different place altogether. Some therapists use a form of therapy called motivational interviewing to reach these people. Therapists who use this technique, according to the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Technology Transfer Network, attempt to connect with the patient on a deep and caring level, asking open-ended questions and encouraging the person to think about why he or she really does need to change. The therapist might ask questions such as, “What would be good, and bad, about continuing to abuse oxycodone?” and “What might be better about being sober?” and “What do you think will happen if you stop taking oxycodone every day?” This technique might seem simple, but it’s been associated with remarkable levels of success.
According to an article published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, using this technique was associated with reduced drug use over the four-week therapy period. It was most effective when combined with other therapies.
Contingency management is another therapy technique that can help to motivate addicts to change their behavior and make better lifestyle choices. Here, the addict is asked to provide a urine sample before he or she begins the therapy session, and if that urine sample is free of oxycodone and other drugs, the addict is given a small prize or reward. The longer the addict stays clear, the bigger the prizes grow. For people who need an extra little boost of motivation, contingency management techniques can be remarkably helpful. According to an article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, contingency management techniques tended to motivate addicts to stay in their treatment programs, and to take their medications as directed. The program does seem to provide the added incentives some people need.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques are also commonly used to treat oxycodone addiction. Here, the addict is taught that thoughts tend to influence behavior, and that by closely examining those thoughts, the addict can thereby closely control behavior. An addict who says, “I need oxycodone to help me relax and deal with stress” might be encouraged to drink a cool glass of water and count to 10 before doing anything at all. The addict might discover that tiny break in time does help to reduce stress, and therefore, the thought that oxycodone is a “must” is simply untrue.Some addicts benefit from therapy sessions that include all members of the family. Addictions rooted deep in the family’s history and dysfunctional communication styles are hard to correct unless everyone agrees to work on the problem together, opening up old issues and resolving past troubles while discovering new ways to talk to and support one another. These group sessions have also been associated with helping addicts to stay in treatment and take their medications, according to a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
Addiction may have its roots in other aspects of the addict’s life. For example, some people may turn to oxycodone after the loss of a job or a downturn in financial stability. When an addict completes a detoxification program, he or she might be clear of drugs, but the financial woes still exist. Some comprehensive programs are designed to deal with all of these issues and get an addict on the road to a healthier life.
These programs might provide support to help an addict deal with issues such as:
- Child care
- Health care
When these triggers are reduced or eliminated, the addict has a powerful incentive to stay clean and maintain this new lifestyle. It’s a powerful way to help someone struggling with addiction to get a new lease on life, and maintain those changes for many years to come.
Mental illness has been closely related to opioid abuse. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, over 50 percent of addicts studied also had some sort of mental health issue. Addicts may have developed their mental health issue as a result of the addiction, or they may have medicated their mental health problem with oxycodone and developed an addiction as a result. In either case, both the mental illness and the addiction must be addressed in order for the person to heal. In so-called Dual Diagnosis programs, people receive counseling for both conditions, and they may receive medications for both issues as well. For some people, this may be the first time their mental health has ever been addressed, and it can be remarkably helpful, allowing the addict to see how the two conditions intersect and how they both can be controlled.
When Does It End?
While inpatient programs for addiction might come to a close after a certain period of time, and outpatient visits to therapists might taper down until the patient has no more appointments, rehabilitation programs for oxycodone addiction never really end. In fact, addiction is commonly considered a chronic condition that the addict will have to work on every day in order to keep a relapse from occurring. Sometimes, this work continues for the rest of the person’s life. Group meetings can be remarkably effective in this regard. Some programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous, use a 12-step model that encourages the addict to make amends for past behavior and help others strengthen their recovery. Other programs, such as SMART Recovery, capitalize on the addict’s inner strength and ability to change. Either model can be effective.
According to SAMHSA, many communities have multiple meetings held every week. But, some smaller towns or remote locations may have no meetings available. An online support group might be helpful for people who cannot find an in-person support group in their community. Any kind of support group is better than no support group at all. The important thing is for the addict to meet others who are also working toward recovery, and to stay motivated to apply those lessons learned in formal rehabilitation programs.
If you’d like more information on recovery from oxycodone addiction or the programs we offer here at Michael’s House, pick up the phone and give us a call. Take the first step on your journey to a sober life.