Getting Off of the Detox Merry-Go-Round

by | Nov 22, 2017 | Health

Have you been through multiple drug rehab programs? Does it all seem too familiar? First, you are admitted to a detox program that uses medication for a short time to get you off opiates or opioids. Then, you transfer to a PHP or IOP.

These day programs provide therapy and group meetings that help you to explore why you use drugs and how to stay clean. You may also live in a sober living home while going to day treatment. You may be completely unaware that there is an alternative to this treatment pathway in the form of medication assisted treatment maintenance. According to one doctor who has treated many opioid addicted patients in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, long term maintenance with proper medication has a much higher success rate for many people.

Unfortunately, according to this Journal of Addiction Study and others, relapse is all too common. The detox programs described here are typically abstinence based. That means that the goal is to quickly get clients off of any “replacement medications”, such as buprenorphine or subutex. Abstinence-based programs do not consider you to be clean if you take a buprenorphine medication long term for maintenance.

Here is where the deadly merry-go-round comes in to the picture. While abstinence is a worthy goal, it is unrealistic for many. A small fraction of recovering opioid addicts are able to get clean without relapse. For the rest, relapse often occurs during or shortly after treatment. If you relapse and survive, you will likely go back to detox. The cycle starts over again.

So, why do we believe that repeating the same thing over and over again is a good idea? In recovery circles, they call that insanity. In the case of opioid addiction, we must prevent relapse if possible. Relapse is too often a death sentence rather than a learning and growth opportunity.

Medication Assisted Treatment is the best solution for many opioid addicts. This means long term maintenance with a buprenorphine-based medication, such as Suboxone, Subutex or ZubSolv. While not 100% effective in preventing all relapses, the success rate is much higher than abstinence-based programs. It is also higher than other types of medication treatments such as naltrexone injections.

The important thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for another. We must keep an open mind and consider that not everyone will succeed by following the same path. When it comes to recovering from opioid addiction, MAT with buprenorphine maintenance can be the key to getting off of the detox and rehab merry-go-round.

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