Opioid Replacement Therapy is a powerful tool to help people who are addicted to opiate-based drugs like heroin, morphine or Oxycontin detox safely. While the ultimate goal of opioid replacement therapy is an eventual complete abstinence from all opioid drugs, it has a number of other features that benefit drug addicts and the communities where they live. This includes fewer instances of disease transmission, a reduction in crime related to drug-seeking behavior and fewer overdose deaths and suicides.
Opioid Replacement Therapy: How it Works
Drugs like heroin are potent and fast-acting. This means that the euphoric effects are felt almost immediately and are intense but short-lived. This type of therapy works by providing addicts with a similar opiate-based drug that produces less intense euphoric effects, but lasts much longer.
The idea is to slowly wean the addict off the stronger, fast-acting illicit chemicals and gradually reduce the dosage of the opioid replacement therapy drugs until abstinence is achieved. This type of therapy reduces the severity and duration of the effects of Acute Withdrawal Syndrome; a significant barrier to treatment for many opioid addicts.
There are 3 primary drugs currently in use, although some nations use different drugs and some permit the use of morphine and even heroin to treat certain types of addicts. In general drugs used during detox and subsequent drug treatment for opiates include:
*Methadone: One of the most widely used opioid replacement therapy drugs; methadone is also commonly diverted for street use despite significant controls.
*Buprenorphine/Suboxone: Once marketed as a powerful analgesic to treat patients with chronic pain and post-surgical patients, buprenorphine is a leading drugs used in opioid replacement therapy, overtaking the popular methadone in many clinics.
*Naltrexone: Used to treat both alcohol and opiate dependence, naltrexone works by directly affecting the receptor sites where neurotransmission resulting in euphoria occurs.
Why Opioid Replacement Therapy during Drug Detox?
This treatment results in significant benefits when compared to traditional drug detox methods. This includes the ability of treatment professionals to properly dose the addict in an effort to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms - especially severe drug cravings and the potential for respiratory depression and other medical complications.
The therapy generally produces a higher patient retention level, keeping addicts in treatment for a longer period of time than traditional methods. It also reduces the amount of illicit drugs consumed by patients, as the patient needs less illicit substances to achieve the effects they seek.
Overall, addicts on opioid replacement therapy protocols generally abstain earlier and stay clean for longer than addicts who are treated using other protocols or no treatment at all.
Regardless of eventual complete abstinence rates (which are regrettably low), the benefits of opioid replacement therapy to addicts and their communities are immense. By stabilizing addicts with this treatment, many people are able to get their lives back in order, despite the