It really all comes down to accepting the fact addiction is not a moral weakness, and it takes much more than willpower to just up and quit. This chronic medical condition, whether it is alcohol or opioid drugs like painkillers, results from changes in the brain with certain people. This circular pattern of drug detox, buprenorphine treatment, and then relapse can become a life long struggle once it begins.
What most people don’t understand is that narcotic addiction, as well as alcohol addiction, will lead to physical changes to the nerves in the brain; changing the way they think and physically act. The damage, in most cases, is permanent. For those with prescription drug addiction the mood and reward connectors are crossed, making it more difficult to distinguish between what feels good or bad based on behaviors. Although these symptoms are awful, this doesn’t compare to the physical agony from abruptly cutting off the supply of the drug.
The symptoms of an opioid withdrawal are; cravings, diarrhea, large pupils, yawning, sweating, belly pain, nausea, vomiting, agitation, severe negative mood, depression, muscle cramping, and insomnia. Unlike withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines (i.e.: antidepressants), an opioid addiction is not necessarily life threatening. The overall withdrawal can last anywhere from one to ten days, however this time can be protracted with use of buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine was introduced to the market in Europe during the 1990’s, and then later became available in the United States as Suboxone. Today, more than 400,000 opioid-dependent patients worldwide have been treated with this drug. Although there has always been a concern with substituting one addiction for the other, there is less chance of this happening with Suboxone. There is limited physical dependence because of the limited euphoria, and when the patient is ready to stop taking the helpful drug, the dose is slowly and gradually tapered.
With the proper medical treatment and traditional therapies like Suboxone and 12-Step programs, many recovering addicts can stay on the road to recovery without having to repeat the abusive circular pattern of detox and relapse.