For many addicts, medication assisted treatment is necessary in order to refrain from continued opioid abuse.
Is Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction Really Safe?
Opioid drugs can really do a number on a person’s life when addiction enters the picture. While most all opioids offer a range of therapeutic benefits as pain-relievers, once a person starts exceeding prescription guidelines the risk of addiction increases with each passing day.
For people trying to recover from long-term addiction, the damage done to the brain makes it especially difficult to follow treatment directives, let alone maintain abstinence for any length of time. Medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction directly addresses the brain dysfunction left behind by chronic, long-term drug use.
Medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction can be highly effective, though any form of medical treatment comes with certain risks. Ultimately, safety issues regarding medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction must be weighed against the consequences that come with relapse and continuing drug use.
How Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction Works
As a drug group, opioids gradually infiltrate the chemical processes that regulate brain and body functions. During the early stages of drug use, withdrawal effects and physical dependence develop in response to growing brain chemical imbalances.
With ongoing use, the degree of imbalance and dysfunction increases to the point where the brain reward system comes to view opioid effects as essential to a person’s daily survival.
Medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction works to support damaged chemical processes in the brain and restore a normal chemical balance, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Methadone and buprenorphine are the two drugs most commonly used.
In effect, these medications interact with the same brain cells as addictive opioids. Addictive opioids weaken these cells and impair their ability to secrete needed neurotransmitter chemical supplies.
Medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction helps restore normal cell secretion processes. These effects go a long way towards reducing the persistent drug cravings and withdrawal effects recovering addicts experience.
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Both methadone and buprenorphine belong to the opioid class of drugs, which accounts for their ability to interact with the same areas of the brain as addictive opioids. In spite of their classification as opioids, drugs used in medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction carry a lower potential for abuse and addiction, though the risk is there.
Safety issues regarding medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction become an issue when it comes time for a person to stop medication treatment. In effect, the brain and body can develop a dependence on these drugs, especially in cases of long-term treatment.
Another safety issue has to do methadone in particular. When first starting out on methadone, it takes a while before doctors can find a person’s optimal dosage levels. During this initial stage, there’s a considerable risk for overdose due to methadone’s ability to stay in the body for long periods of time, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. If dosage increases are made too soon or too often, the potential for overdose increases.
While medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction does pose certain safety concerns, the prospect of remaining trapped inside an opioid addiction comes with considerably more risk.
Opioid addiction destroys both the body and the mind, with the potential for overdose increasing with each passing day. In spite of the potential for dependence, medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction enables a person to live a normal life.
If you or someone you know are considering medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction and have more questions, or need help finding treatment that meets your needs, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at (800) 407-7195 to speak with one of our addictions specialists.