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Rehab, short for drug rehabilitation or drug rehab, for opiates is a term for the processes of medical or psychotherapeutic treatment, for dependency on prescription opiates, such as oxycodone, or illicit opiates, such as heroin. The general intent is to enable the patient to cease substance abuse, in order to avoid the psychological, legal, financial, social, and physical consequences that can be caused, especially by extreme abuse. Treatment includes counseling by experts and sharing of experience with other addicts. Some rehab centers include meditation and spiritual wisdom in the treatment process.

Opiate Physiological Withdrawal

Opiate withdrawal is the group of symptoms that occur upon the abrupt discontinuation or decrease in intake of prescription medications or illicit drugs.

In order to experience the symptoms of withdrawal, one must have first developed a physical or mental dependence. This happens after consuming one or more substances for a certain period of time, which is both dose dependent and varies based upon the drug consumed. Withdrawal symptoms from opiate abuse (such as heroin/morphine) include anxiety, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Alcohol abuse withdrawal symptoms include irritability, fatigue, shaking, sweating, and nausea. Symptoms and body response to the absence of opiates can vary from mild discomfort, or to the return of previous underlying medical problems and their respective symptoms.

The route of administration, whether intravenous, intramuscular, oral or otherwise, can also play a role in determining the severity of withdrawal symptoms. There are different stages of withdrawal as well; generally, a person will start to feel worse and worse, hit a plateau, and then the symptoms begin to dissipate. While it is seldom fatal to the user, withdrawal from opiates can cause miscarriage, due to fetal withdrawal. The term “cold turkey” is used to describe the sudden cessation use of a substance and the ensuing physiologic manifestations.

Even once the symptoms of withdrawal have receded, and/or even after a long period of abstinence, a recovering person can be triggered to re-live his/her withdrawal symptoms through the exposure of a trigger. A trigger is a cue that reminds the recovering addict of the drug. Triggers can be anything from a familiar smell, or passing by a location that the individual associates with his/her previous experiences with using opiates.

Psychological Dependency

Psychological dependency is addressed in many drug rehabilitation programs by attempting to teach the patient new methods of interacting in a drug-free environment. In particular, patients are generally encouraged, or possibly even required, to not associate with friends who still use the addictive substance. Twelve-step programs encourage addicts not only to stop using opiates, but to examine and change habits related to their addictions. Many programs emphasize that recovery is a permanent process without culmination. For legal drugs such as alcohol, complete abstention — rather than attempts at moderation, which may lead to relapse — is also emphasized (“One is too many, and a thousand is never enough.”) Whether moderation is achievable by those with a history of abuse remains a controversial point, but is generally considered unsustainable.

Various types of programs offer help in drug rehabilitation, including: residential treatment (in-patient), out-patient, local support groups, extended care centers, recovery or sober houses, addiction counselling, mental health, orthomolecular medicine and medical care. Some rehab centers offer age- and gender-specific programs.

Types of behavioral therapy include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which seeks to help patients to recognize, avoid and cope with situations in which they are most likely to relapse.
  • Multidimensional family therapy, which is designed to support recovery of the patient by improving family functioning.
  • Motivational interviewing, which is designed to increase patient motivation to change behavior and enter treatment.
  • Motivational incentives, which uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from the addictive substance

Detox Option

Rehab may be used to help and prolong detoxification and may be an effective treatment for improving the health and living condition of people experiencing problematic illicit opiate use or prescription drug dependence.