Individuals who develop opioid use disorders have very severe mental health conditions that require professional intervention. Because there is a very strong potential that individuals who abuse these substances on a regular basis over a period of several weeks or more have developed physical dependence on them, it is extremely important that individuals who enter recovery programs for opiate abuse are thoroughly evaluated. The evaluation should consist of a full physical, psychological, and emotional evaluation, assessment of one’s social and living situation, and a full cognitive evaluation to determine the individual’s ability to become engaged in aspects of treatment. These evaluations will help the individual’s treatment providers to design a targeted plan that will specifically address their strengths and weaknesses and also treat any co-occurring mental health disorders or medical conditions.
Once the physician has ascertained an initial starting dose where the recovering individual does not experience significant withdrawal symptoms, the physician will slowly taper down the dose of the medication at periodic intervals to help the individual wean off opiate drugs altogether. The process is lengthier than stopping use of opiates suddenly; however, the individual’s withdrawal symptoms can be managed so they remain comfortable and able to engage in other aspects of recovery.
Other medications may be used as needed to address specific symptoms or co-occurring conditions. Withdrawal management programs are ideally suited to be delivered on an inpatient basis; however, in very specific instances, they may be initiated for individuals on an outpatient basis.
Individuals diagnosed with any form of addiction are often also diagnosed with other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, etc. Research into treatment for substance use disorders has indicated that is imperative that co-occurring psychological disorders be treated along with the substance abuse issue. Trying to treat only one condition is counterproductive and will not result in significant recovery. Co-occurring disorders need to be treated concurrently.
A key factor in recovery is that individuals maintain their participation in the recovery program for a significant length of time. Research indicates that individuals who maintain participation in recovery programs for 5-7 years after they had been abstinent have higher rates of long-term or lifelong success. This is why resources like social support groups can be extremely useful for ongoing recovery.