An addiction to opiates including OxyCodone, Fentanyl, Vicodin, or even Heroin comes with a serious chemical component that may not be easily discontinued by abstinence, alone. Chemical changes in the brain require drive severe physical and psychological cravings, and a holistic approach to managing substance abuse disorder is important. Each person may require a different approach that suits their lifestyle and their disorder. However, treating the chemical component of addiction is becoming a requirement to safely manage sobriety. The use of MAT (Medically Assisted Treatments) helps the user discontinue the use of opiates and effectively manage the addiction recovery process.
How Opiates Work
Opiate receptors are naturally occurring nerve connectors in the brain, spinal column, digestive system, and other organs. When opiate drugs attach to these special nerve connection points (receptors), they modify signals to the brain about pain. They also slow down the body’s respiratory system. Opiates are powerful drugs and they are very good at activating the body’s receptors.
The unfortunate side of opiate addiction is that as a person continues to use opioids for pain relief, comfort or even pleasure, the body slows its natural reward-system, and the production of endorphins, which are chemical neurotransmitters that reduce feelings of pain and increase feelings of comfort, well-being and even pleasure in the brain.
How Opiate Addiction Takes Hold
Anyone can become addicted to opiates. It has nothing to do with character flaws or the lack of self-control. These chemicals are powerful. As the feel-good feelings wear off, it’s very, very easy to want to increase one’s dosage to reclaim those feelgood feelings, because one’s brain is no longer producing the naturally-occurring chemicals that it needs to feel good and it becomes less responsive to the chemical opiates introduced into the system. This is tolerance and a user may need to keep increasing their dosage to receive the same effect. As a person’s tolerance increases to opiates s/he then needs to take more and more to reclaim those good feelings. And the downside is that once the drugs wear off, the user starts to feel very sick, through withdrawals. Cravings for taking the drug are complicated by the need to just feel normal and stave off being sick.
What is MAT for Opiate Abuse Disorder
Medically Assisted Treatment of opiate disorder in combination with counseling or other support helps keep the person in recovery safe and feeling somewhat “normal” through the process. Because of the pain experienced through withdrawals from opiates, a person might be tempted to use again or feel overwhelming psychological duress as the body adjusts. More than anything, the user needs a safe and gradual way to allow them to work through the healing process of addiction as their brain chemistry returns to normal. There are different chemicals to treat opiate addiction including Suboxone (buprenorphine), Naloxone, and Methodone. Though each of these opiate-derived chemicals works in slightly different ways, the underlying principle is that they partially or completely block the opiate receptors while at the same time, delivering a moderate or partial benefit. What this means is that if a person taking a MAT for opiate use disorder tries to use, in many cases the drug will have little to no effect. The receptors are partially or completely blocked and the drugs are not able to attach to opiate receptors and deliver the same benefits. This helps the user feel normal again, while they work on reducing cravings.
What is Sublocade?
Sublocade is a form of extended-release Buprenorphine. It is administered as a Sublocade injection, once a month, delivering a dosage of Suboxone that is gradually released over a month. Suboxone is what’s called a “partial agonist.” From a pharmacological perspective, partial agonists are drugs that bind to specific receptors but only have a partial effect. A full agonist like OxyCodone or Heroin has a “full-effect” on the opiate receptors.
Depending on the person’s dosage of full-agonist narcotics and the severity of their withdrawals, they can take a higher or lower dose of Sublocade. The benefit is reduced cravings, feelings of normalcy which allows the user to work on psychological behaviors of addiction.
Sublocade Availability and How to Help a Friend
MAT treatments including those with Sublocade are very effective at reducing the number of deaths and relapses. If you have a friend or loved one who is suffering from Opiate Use Disorder, please try to share this article and encourage them to find a doctor who is familiar with MAT. Only 35% of rehab facilities are implementing MAT therapies and many Sublocade doctors lack the training and or certifications to apply these treatments.