Think of OxyContin addiction as a drop of blue food coloring in a glass of clear water. That drop may start small, but slowly and steadily, it spreads throughout the water until the entire glass is tainted. Obviously, in this scenario, it’s extremely difficult for the water to purify itself. Often, the water needs help from an outside source that can change the environment just enough, and change the water just enough, to make the blue disappear and restore the water to a clear state. OxyContin rehabilitation programs provide this sort of help.
An OxyContin rehabilitation program is designed to help the addict learn a series of new skills to keep an addiction at bay. Therapists have a wide variety of tools they can use in a rehabilitation program, including:
Sources of Addiction
Some people who are addicted to OxyContin have underlying pain conditions. Their doctors prescribed the medication, and over time, they began to abuse it. When the OxyContin is removed, the pain may return.
A second group of addicts develop OxyContin addictions as a result of an underlying mental illness. A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that people with mental illnesses such as personality disorders, anxiety disorders and bipolar disorders tended to have higher rates of prescription opioid abuse. It’s possible, the authors suggest, that these people used the medications in order to control their underlying mental illnesses. Therefore, it’s possible that mental illness in these people could grow stronger when they stop taking drugs like OxyContin.
At the very beginning of an OxyContin rehabilitation program, the addict and his/her therapist will talk at length about these issues. Knowing why the abuse began could be key in preventing a relapse from occurring. In addition, helping the addict understand why he or she is vulnerable to addiction could be a valuable lesson that is built up throughout the course of therapy.
Next, the therapist and the addict discuss the course of drug treatment, and they determine where the treatment should take place. For some addicts, enrolling in an inpatient program for a specific period of time can be helpful, as they can truly focus on the hard work at hand without outside distractions. For other addicts, staying home and being supported by family throughout recovery could be a better choice. The therapist and the addict talk this through together. (See Related: Percocet Addiction Signs).
Therapy for OxyContin Addiction
For many people addicted to OxyContin, therapy forms the cornerstone of treatment. If the only exposure the addict has to therapeutic concepts is through books or television shows, the addict is likely to be surprised by therapy. Addiction counseling sessions are far from cliché. The addict rarely lies on a couch and discusses toilet training or repressed memories. Instead, the addict plays a concrete, active and specific role in therapy, learning to identify:
Why the OxyContin abuse took place
What makes cravings grow stronger
Who encourages the addict to abuse the drug
Who supports recovery
What the person can do when faced with a craving
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this form of counseling has been remarkably effective in treating opioid dependence. In fact, even people who only participated in counseling sessions only once per week improved. The patients who had sessions three times per week showed no greater gains in improvement scores. In other words, the therapy works if the addict stays involved, committed and working, and the time spent in actual therapy sessions may be minimal.
People who abuse OxyContin and who have underlying mental health issues may need a slightly different form of therapy. According to a study published in the journal Bipolar Disorders, people who have both conditions tend to pull down extremely low scores when they’re asked about their quality of life. In short, their issues may be just a bit deeper and more severe, and therapy may take a bit longer. Instead of pushing the addict to think hard, be bold and make changes outside of therapy sessions, the therapy may focus on supporting the addict to think, process and make changes at his or her own pace. There’s a lot to learn, and a significant amount of information to process, so the therapy may need to slow down to give the addict more time.
Medications May Be Needed
OxyContin is in the same drug family as heroin, and both drugs do a significant amount of damage to the body’s chemical system. People recovering from these addictions may face a variety of symptoms including depression, and difficulty with decision-making and impulse control, as their bodies heal and recalibrate. Sometimes, medications have a role to play in keeping these symptoms in check.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, medications such as methadone and buprenorphine may be helpful for people who are addicted to OxyContin. Methadone and buprenorphine tend to mask unpleasant OxyContin withdrawal symptoms without providing any form of euphoria or pleasurable sensation. They attach to the same receptors and, in a sense, trick the body into believing that it has access to OxyContin. For people with severe addictions that are difficult to treat, methadone and/or buprenorphine could be valuable.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that addicts with strong social connections and a will to quit might benefit from a different medication known as naltrexone. This drug is an agonist, meaning that it kicks any available drug off of its receptors. If the addict in recovery takes OxyContin, the naltrexone will keep the drug from working. In theory, this could help break a cycle of reward the addict has built up over time. The addict thinks, “I take drugs, and I feel better.” With naltrexone, the addict thinks, “I take drugs, and I feel nothing.” This could be a powerful lesson.
The role of the family in OxyContin addiction is hard to overstate. The addict may have acted badly, or even harmed the family, during the course of the addiction, and those wounds must be healed. But in addition, the family may have had a hand in the development of the addiction. For example, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, most people who abuse prescription opioids like OxyContin get the drugs from their friends and family members, in addition to their doctors. In other words, the entire family may have, at one time, enabled the person to use drugs.
Family therapy sessions can help everyone understand how enabling works, and family members can learn more about what they need to do to create an environment that is safe and welcoming for the addict in recovery. In addition, the family can have a chance to expose these old grievances and get them resolved in helpful and constructive ways. This could also be beneficial, both for the addict and for the entire family. At Alta Mira, we encourage our clients to stay in touch with their families, and we provide counseling sessions specifically designed to include all family members. Call us today to find out more.
For many people recovering from addiction, 12-step groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous can have a real and powerful impact on healing. In other words, these programs can pick up where formal programs leave off, allowing the addict to keep learning and keep changing in order to beat back an addiction. Few studies, if any, have been performed specifically on OxyContin addicts, but it’s likely that at least some people are apt to find the groups helpful. And in fact, the risk of at least trying a program is low. They’re often free, and people don’t have to register to attend. They can just go to a meeting and see if it helps. It might be an avenue worth exploring.