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Why Is It So Hard to Quit Opioids?

Opioid addiction has become a full-blown epidemic in the United States. Even though there are now more programs and treatments than ever, many people still find it difficult to quit opioids. Even though it may seem impossible, you can recover with the right tools and help.

The Opioid Epidemic

To understand the opioid epidemic, it’s important to go back to the late 1990s. During this time, healthcare providers began prescribing opioids at greater rates.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), this increase in prescriptions was a result of pharmaceutical companies reassuring the medical community that “patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers.”

You’re probably already aware that what happened was the complete opposite of what was intended. Increased opioid medication prescriptions led to widespread misuse. When it became clear that these medications were highly addictive, it was almost too late.

The HHS declared that the opioid crisis was a public health emergency in 2017. This brings us to today, where overdoses, deaths, and active addictions continue to rise.

A Silver Lining

There is a silver lining, however. A greater need to combat this crisis has led to more options for treatment than ever. It has also continued to destigmatize opioid addiction, which opens the doors for more people to seek help.

Widespread studies have also changed the way people understand and approach this disease. This research has led to a variety of innovative treatments and new ideas.

Why It’s Hard to Quit Opioids: Effects on the Brain

According to an article published in Science & Practice Perspectives, opioid tolerance, dependence, and addiction “are all manifestations of brain changes resulting from chronic opioid abuse.” In fact, the struggle for recovery is in large part a struggle to overcome these brain changes.

Even though recovery should always be navigated on a person-by-person basis, it’s still important for clinicians and patients alike to understand the neurobiology of addiction. This understanding can remove stigmas around addiction and help people understand that opioid addiction is not only a chronic disease but also has a biological basis.

How Opioids Work in the Brain

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), opioids “bind to mu-opioid receptors on the nerve cells in the brain and body to reduce pain and suppress coughs when used legitimately.” Unfortunately, this effect can also cause intense euphoria that can lead to dependence and/or addiction.

According to the HHS, well-supported evidence suggests that the addiction process is part of a “three-stage cycle” in the brain. These stages are as follows:

  • The first is the “binge/intoxication” cycle, where an individual consumes a substance and experiences its “rewarding” effects. This stage is linked to the basal ganglia region of the brain.
  • The second stage is withdrawal, where an individual experiences negative effects from the absence of drugs in their system. This stage is connected to the extended amygdala region.
  • The third stage of the cycle is known as “preoccupation/anticipation.” This is where someone will seek out substances even after a period of abstinence. That stage is connected to the prefrontal cortex.

The neurobiological effects of addiction may seem complex. However, if you’re addicted to opioids, it is still possible to rewrite these patterns and quit opioids for good.

Action Steps to Quit Opioids

In order to quit opioids, it’s important to understand that this is a layered process that can take time. Be gentle with yourself as you go through this journey and make sure to celebrate yourself every step of the way.

Break Dependence

There is a difference between dependence and addiction. When you’re in recovery from opioids, it’s important to understand both.

Dependence means you need to continue taking the drug in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. To break through this phase, detoxification is crucial. In detox, you will be able to get the drugs out of your system under the care of medical professionals.

You will start to overcome dependence in the brain after detoxification. However, it may take a few days, a few weeks, or a few months after you stop using opioids. Always remember that treatment should be viewed on an individualized basis. No two people are alike.

Heal Addiction

By comparison, addiction is a bit more complex and long-lasting. This is the layer that includes drug cravings and habitual use.

Healing addiction may take time. It may also require environmental changes, social changes, habit conditioning, and ongoing medical and therapeutic care.

Make Environmental and Social Changes

Many people who experience addiction will associate with others who are facing the same issues. In order to quit opioids, it’s important to make social changes. These changes include finding new support networks within your family, friends, therapy groups, and treatment centers.

Environmental changes are also crucial for many people. If you’re used to a certain environment in which you would normally use opioids, you may want to consider making a big change. You can also take a longer-term break by living at a residential treatment facility. When you’re removed from a negative environment, you can focus on your recovery in a space that is safe and supportive of your treatment goals.

Quit Opioids at The Guest House

Quitting opioids is possible, especially with the right help and guidance. At The Guest House, we specialize in helping you overcome addiction in a holistic way that works best for your unique circumstances.

You may want to start with our detox program so you can first rid your body of substances. From there, you can explore our cutting-edge program which includes a vast array of therapies, practices, and even adventurous activities to help you rewrite addictive brain patterns for lasting recovery.

At The Guest House, you will be able to find yourself again through our various therapies and activities. Our program allows you to not only overcome your addiction but also rediscover life’s simple joys, one day at a time.

Opioid addiction is a brain disease. Even though it may seem difficult, with the right help, it is possible to quit opioids for good. At The Guest House, we specialize in healing conditions like opioid dependence and addiction. Beginning with our detox program, you can start the journey of removing opioids from your body. From there, you can explore our wide array of tools, practices, and therapies to not only heal addiction but also rediscover your sense of self, purpose, and joy in life. As a trauma-specific facility, we are committed to helping you get to the root cause of your opioid addiction to help you find lasting success in recovery. Call us today at (855) 483-7800.