In recent years, addiction to prescription painkillers and other opioids has become a huge problem in America. Deaths from opioid overdoses have tripled since the year 2000. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose, and more than 2 million Americans struggled with substance abuse disorders related to prescription painkillers. The opioid crisis is in the news constantly, and the effects are far-reaching, extending from the pain and suffering of the addicts to their families, friends, and even the community at large, who feels the economic impact in terms of lost wages, healthcare, and criminal justice involvement. With that information in mind, it is no surprise that a variety of addiction treatment options are springing up nationwide as people are searching for ways to help themselves or the people they love. There are so many choices available–Christian detox centers, secular programs, 12 step programs, inpatient, outpatient–that choosing the right approach can feel overwhelming.
Why Are Opioids So Dangerous?
Opioids are a class of chemically similar drugs including powerful painkillers and illicit street drugs. Some are naturally-occurring compounds that are have been extracted or derived from the poppy plant, such opium, heroin, morphine, and codeine. Others are synthetic drugs with a similar chemical structure, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and methadone. Whether naturally-occurring or made in a lab, all opioid drugs act the same way in the body, and that is what makes them so addictive.
Opioids interfere with the way the brain processes pain signals, which makes them effective painkillers, but also makes them very habit-forming. They block the production of a chemical called GABA by binding to opiate receptors in the brain. Under normal circumstances, GABA regulates dopamine production, so when GABA is blocked, dopamine floods the brain. This dopamine rush blocks any feelings of pain, and, at the same time, produces extreme feelings of pleasure–the euphoric “high” associated with drug abuse. The high produced by opioid drugs is so extreme that people can become addicted very quickly.
People who repeatedly use opioids become tolerant to them, meaning that the same dose will no longer produce the intended effect, whether that is pain management or getting high. At this point, the user will have to take higher or more frequent doses in order to achieve any results. Opioid dependence begins when the body becomes physically dependent on opioids just to feel normal. People are considered to be addicted to opioid drugs when they become tolerant to and dependent on opiates and feel compelled to use them in spite of the negative health effects.
Negative Impact of Opioid Addiction
People who are addicted to opioids suffer in terms of their personal lives and their health. Their personal lives are impacted because addicts will neglect their families, friends, work, and social obligations in favor of substance abuse. They may choose to spend their money on drugs instead of paying the bills and can easily end up in debt. Addicts are more likely to lose a job because of poor performance, showing up late, or not showing up at all. Addicts will go to great lengths to obtain more drugs, even going so far as to break the law by “doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions, forging prescriptions, or stealing money to buy drugs on the street. Physically, opioid abuse puts the user at higher risk of:
- Collapsed veins (if injected)
- Damaged nasal tissue (if sniffed or snorted)
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Stomach cramping
- Liver and kidney disease
- Lung complications, including pneumonia
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Hypoxia–reduced oxygen to the brain from low breathing rate
- Brain damage
If the person stops taking opioid drugs, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Reduced energy
- Excessive sweating
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches and pains
These symptoms occur as the drugs leave the body, a process known as detox. Opioid detox and withdrawal are known to be especially difficult; sometimes described as worse than the worst flu you have ever had. Users can be so intimidated by the idea of detox that they are afraid to quit.
What is Rapid Detox?
Rapid detox is just what it sounds like: a fast way to rid the body of all traces of drugs. The detox process is critical to recovery but very uncomfortable. Rapid detox condenses a process that normally takes seven to ten days into just eight hours. In this clip, Dr. Thomas Yee describes the Advanced Rapid Opiate Detox (AROD) method he developed after working for decades as an anesthesiologist. He noticed that many of the pain management patients he encountered were no longer in pain but were truly addicted to prescription painkillers. Many of them wanted to quit but were so afraid of withdrawal that they did not even try. His response was to create AROD, which shortens the withdrawal process to just 8 hours, all under medical supervision. First, he uses anesthesia to put the patient to sleep for about 8 hours so that they will not feel or remember any of the side effects of detox. He then administers a high dose of naltrexone, a medication that blocks any remaining opioids in the body from activity in the brain. He also administers medication to protect the brain and body from the detox process.
While rapid detox sounds like a miracle cure, in truth, there is no miracle cure for addiction. Rapid detox spares the patient the discomfort of withdrawal, and this probably encourages some people to seek treatment who might otherwise be too afraid of detox and withdrawal, but it does come with some downsides. Use of anesthesia always comes with health risks, such as postoperative confusion, pneumonia, stroke, or heart attack. Rapid detox also fails to address the underlying issues that led the person to addiction in the first place. A more holistic approach over a longer period of time may be more successful for long-term recovery.
Alternatives to Rapid Detox
While detox and withdrawal are definitely unpleasant and uncomfortable, they are not life-threatening processes, so there are no risks to traditional detox. In-patient rehab centers offer the best chances for getting off of drugs and learning how to cope without them. One option is Christian detox, a faith-based approach that resembles conventional treatment programs but has the added elements of Christian spiritual guidance, focus on prayer, and reliance on Jesus Christ to heal the addict. Christian detox centers guide the addict through detox and withdrawal, then provide group and individual counseling and therapy to help the addict learn to live without drugs and to understand why the addict turned to drugs in the first place. Treatment is provided in the context of Christianity: for example, viewing the body is a temple created by God, looking for healing from Jesus, the Great Physician, and seeking strength from Christ. Prayer, scripture reading, and worship services will be offered in addition to regular treatment. Patients can learn to depend on God for hope and relief instead of drugs or alcohol.
If you or someone you love is looking for a drug detox program, call our toll-free number today. We can help find the right approach for you.