OxyContin is a powerful pain medication in a class of drugs known as opiates. People who abuse these drugs for long periods of time develop a sort of love/hate relationship with the little white pills. They may love the way the pills make them feel, and they may hate the way they feel when they stop taking the pills and the withdrawal symptoms that kick in. These withdrawal symptoms may be so strong, in fact, that the user may never even consider giving up on the drugs, for fear of entering a world of discomfort that doesn’t seem to end.
Supervised OxyContin detoxification programs can help. Here, the addict will receive care for the painful symptoms of withdrawal, and the addict’s blossoming desire to be free of addiction to OxyContin can be supported and nourished, until it is strong enough to carry an addict onward to recovery.
When an addict takes in an opiate like OxyContin, the drug latches to specific receptors in the brain, boosting the production of some chemicals and reducing the influence of others. Slowly, the body begins to adjust to this changed environment, and it becomes the new version of normal. When the addict attempts to stop taking OxyContin, the body reacts with panic and throws down a wide variety of symptoms.
Early symptoms can be mild and include:
- Anxiety or agitation
- Watery eyes
- Sore muscles
More severe withdrawal can include:
- Abdominal cramping and diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these symptoms can be uncomfortable, but they’re not life-threatening. Often, they will subside on their own, without treatment. Addiction to OxyContin, by contrast, can be life-threatening, and that’s the real danger that hides behind these withdrawal problems. Having a severe bout of these symptoms may be hard to endure, but they may be even harder to get through when the addict knows that one little pill, sitting right across the room, can make all of the symptoms go away. When an addict feels ill, alone and frightened, it’s much too easy to slip back into the arms of addiction. If an addict can emerge from withdrawal without feeling these problems, by contrast, he or she might feel even stronger in recovery.
Where Care Is Provided
There are two main venues provided for OxyContin detoxification: inpatient programs and outpatient programs. Choosing between the two options can be difficult, but the addict’s doctor or therapist may be able to provide valuable insight. After all, the programs are designed to help particular types of patients, and consulting medical professionals have the professional distance required to help sort patients into groups. This can be invaluable for families that simply cannot choose.
An inpatient program, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, is designed to help people who are likely to have a prolonged or complicated withdrawal. They may be abusing other drugs, have mental health issues that might be exacerbated or have medical problems that need to be monitored.
In an inpatient program, these patients have around-the-clock access to consulting medical care, and they can ensure that all of their issues are addressed in a timely and punctual manner. If something goes wrong, they won’t have to call for help or head to a clinic. They will just call out for help.
Inpatient programs might also be beneficial for people who aren’t yet 100-percent committed to a long-term recovery. These people might be more liable to sign up for a detoxification program, and then never keep any follow-up appointments whatsoever. When the program becomes inconvenient, or the lure of the drug becomes too strong, they may simply opt out of the program with no hassle at all. This is much harder to accomplish in an inpatient program.
Inpatient programs do have some drawbacks, however. They are often expensive, and some people don’t have insurance coverage for this type of care. In addition, some people find that leaving their homes, children and spouses for a period of time is simply too wrenching to contemplate. If these patients have stable home lives, and they have a network they can rely upon when times get tough, they may benefit from outpatient programs instead. Here, they live at home and head to a series of appointments for medications and monitoring from consulting physicians.
Length of Time
Most detoxification programs last for a period of several days to several weeks, depending on the overall health of the addict and the amount of OxyContin that person has been using on a regular basis. High doses of the drug might take longer to recover from, while lower doses might be slightly easier to remove from the system.
In our quick-fix society, some people find the idea of spending weeks in detoxification a bit unpleasant. They’d rather take a pill, spend a weekend and emerge with a clean system. So-called “rapid detoxification” programs seem like a dream come true for these patients, as they’re told they’ll be sedated, given drugs,
detoxified and then wake up with no symptoms at all. This might be true, and a study published in the journal Pharmacopsychiatry seems to indicate that it is true for some patients, but there are also many other cases where patients have died while undergoing this procedure. Withdrawal from OxyContin causes vomiting, and while patients are sedated, they cannot expel that vomit. Since regular detoxification isn’t associated with this high risk of death, it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile risk to take. Michael’s House ascribes to a social model form of detox in collaboration with consulting physicians, as well as a comprehensive treatment program following detox. We do not advocate or practice rapid detox.
As mentioned, medications prescribed from consulting physicians can help to ease the symptoms of OxyContin withdrawal. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, buprenorphine and methadone are the two medications commonly used in these detoxification programs, and your doctor will have to determine if you need medications or which ones are right for you. These medications are not opiates and they do not cause euphoria or a “high.” Instead, they fool the body into believing that it has access to OxyContin. Therefore, symptoms of withdrawal as well as cravings for drugs tend to dissipate while the user is on these medications.
However, some people have a very high tolerance for medications like this, due to their years of drug use, and they may find that the doses they’re given early in the treatment process don’t seem to be helping. Consulting doctors monitor people closely when they’re beginning medication therapy, just to make sure the person is comfortable. The goal is to allow the person to feel simply normal, not overly relaxed or overly painful.
If patients are taking high doses of these drugs and they still experience symptoms, consulting doctors can provide additional help with clonidine. This drug can help with the feelings of anxiety and stress that commonly develop during a period of opioid withdrawal. According to an article published in the journal Pharmacotherapy,this drug is considered safe and effective for use in withdrawal programs, and it’s sometimes the best way to transition a person from drug use to addiction maintenance therapy. Not everyone needs this medication, however. It truly depends on how the addict responds as the withdrawal process progresses.
Some patients taper down and down during their detoxification programs until they’re taking no drugs at all. While this might sound like a reasonable goal for all addicts, it’s often not realistic when it comes to OxyContin addiction. Some people need to take these medications for months, as they experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as they begin the tapering process. Other people need to take the medications for life, for the same reasons. It’s a personal decision, made in consultation between the addict and his or her doctor. It’s common for patients to reach a maintenance dose of medications, and then transition into OxyContin rehabilitation programs where they continue to take the medications under medical supervision from consulting physicians.
Detoxification means more than just resting and taking medications. The addict has made a decision to do something powerful, and that decision must be nurtured and supported. This is another function of a detoxification program.
The addict might be encouraged to:
- Eat well
- Get adequate sleep
- Have a physical, and begin to address other physical complaints
In other words, the addict might be encouraged to think about putting together a healthy lifestyle that he or she can use to stay off OxyContin for good. In an inpatient program, some of these lifestyle perks may even be provided as part of the entrance fee.
The rest of the support provided is emotional and therapeutic. Treatment professionals use a “stages of change” model when they think about their patients who are making major life decisions. In this model, patients move from just contemplating a decision (“Maybe I will one day.”) to preparing to change (“I’ll sign up for this program.”) to doing something active about their change (“Here I am, and I will work hard.”).
Treatment professionals have a role to play in pushing an addict from lower stages to higher stages, according to an article in American Family Physician. They might ask the addict to answer questions or think hard about how life would be if he or she did change. While addicts in detoxification programs are truly in an active change role, as they’re working toward sobriety, they could just as easily slide backward to contemplative stages. All staff members who work in a detoxification program work hard to make sure that does not happen.
Detoxification is not the end of the addict’s journey. In fact, studies suggest that people who only go through detoxification and don’t complete longer rehabilitation programs tend to slide right back into addiction. And people who relapse into OxyContin addiction do so at their peril. A study published in BMJ found that opiate addicts who successfully completed an inpatient detoxification program were more likely to die than people who did not. When these patients left their inpatient programs, the authors suggest, they returned to using drugs at the high levels they had used before their treatment began. Since their bodies were no longer used to these high levels of drugs, they overdosed as a result. It’s a terrible consequence of a relapse.
In order to prevent such issues, consulting medical professionals of detoxification programs encourage all addicts to enroll in formal rehabilitation programs right away. In fact, some programs provide both detoxification and rehabilitation under the same roof, making it harder for the addict to walk away from one program without completing the other. In a formal rehabilitation program, such as the one we provide at Michael’s House, the addict can truly learn how to rebuild his or her life and stop abusing OxyContin.
For more information on detox and rehabilitation, contact us today; we are here to help.