For those suffering from an opioid use disorder, their families, and everyone who gets caught in the far-reaching web of addiction, we are here for you. You are the reason we started this service. Although we provide service to all who are struggling to maintain a life of sobriety, the opioid crisis has a special place in our hearts. The founder of Reaction Recovery went through a thirteen year opioid addiction down the classic path of prescription pain killers to heroin. Due to the amounts consumed over this period of time and numerous failed attempts to stop, he believed his situation was hopeless and recovery was not possible.
But it is possible. He is recovering and healing every day by sticking to a few basic daily rules. If you believe recovery is not possible, we are here to tell you that you are wrong. It is possible. For everyone. Even you.
Opioid painkillers are typically prescribed to be a temporary solution - and I should add "for serious pain." For a lot of these patients, the opioids stop being effective as painkillers when they're taken chronically over several months. The problem is that most often a tolerance has been established, therefore when the drug is reduced or discontinued there is a withdrawal syndrome that many people mistake for a recurrence of the pain. For example, if you ask any former opioid dependent to describe withdrawal, he will likely tell you that his whole body was hurting. So what is simply the body detoxing from the opioids and would simply end in a few days is now used as justification for the patient as to why the pain treatment needs to be continued. Once this pattern is established - and it typically does not take very long - the road to a severe chemical dependency is underway.
Many of the people who first try opioids aren't looking to get high - they simply want to relieve pain. But even the people who begin using them recreationally for the stimulating and euphoric effect, the brain will develop a tolerance so that more and more is needed to achieve the same effect. You could consider the situation to be a full blow dependency (or addiction) when the individual needs to take the drug simply to feel "normal" and carry out every day activities. These are the people who are in big trouble. Modern day neuro-research suggests that by the time this state has occured, the brain has literally changed and reconfigured its "priority system" so that acquiring the drug has now shifted from a luxury to a necessity. Depending upon how much was consumed over what length of time, this reconfiguration process can take an excruciatingly long time, and all available data suggest that regardless how much time continuous abstinence time has been achieved, even the briefest future exposure to an opioid can re-trigger the entire system. So former opioid dependents need to exercise extreme caution for the rest of their lives regarding taking any unnecessary opioid medications if they are serious about maintaining sobriety.
In this website we try not to shy away from controversial topics because the need to identify and talk about certain topics is absolutely essential. This is one of those topics.
Relapse is not a requirement, but it is often more the rule than the exception. Addiction is a very stubborn disease and given that one of the main temperamental traits of the sufferer is defiance, it often takes a lot of pain and suffering to finally get to a point where the desire to change meets the willingness to take the action. Alcoholics Anonymous was started in the 1930s and was a treatment for addiction that was being applied almost exclusively to alcoholics. The program stresses the importance of hitting a spiritual bottom and even encourages people who are still not fully accepting to go out and try some controlled drinking if it might help them get a better understanding of their illness.
Relapses from any chronically addictive behavior happen every day, but with opioids, more than any other drug, the relapses can be fatal. This has never been more apparent than today with fentanyl and carfentanyl being sold as heroin. This is particularly true for someone who has been clean for at least a few weeks and does not have a tolerance to the opioids.
When someone in the family is using heroin, most people don't call a doctor trained in addiction medicine. They usually turn to family and friends who have had addiction issues themselves in the past. They might meet with an uncle, for example, who is a recovering alcoholic sober in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He advises to go to detox then a rehabilitation facility and once he get out to start going to AA meetings. If the heroin abuser starts to argue that he has never had a problem with alcohol, the typical answer is that addiction is all one, big spiritual disease, and the majority of members in AA were also drug addicts. And so the individual completes a detox, stays in treatment for a month, gets out and starts attending AA meetings.
The available literature regarding the success rates of opioid abusers who attend AA meetings without any other form of therapy is scarce. However, simply from our experience and close observation, many opioid-addicted people who do not also identify as having or having had an alcohol addiction might find it difficult in the beginning to raise their hand and say, "Hi, I'm an alcoholic."