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The Early Stages of Opiate Drug Addiction Treatment

Opioid Drug Addiction Treatment: Keep Doing What You're Doing
Opiate Drug Addiction Treatment: Keep Doing What You’re Doing

What kinds of changes do you undergo when you are in the early stages of opiate drug addiction treatment? When you stop doing drugs or alcohol, you invoke a huge change in your biochemical make-up as you throw your body into withdrawal. Even if you switch from heroin or opiates to medication-assisted therapy using methadone or buprenorphine, in order to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, you still experience huge revisions to your body’s routine physical and emotional responses.

Changes During Your First Sober Year

How long will the initial effects last when you’re in opiate drug addiction treatment? Recovery is a lengthy process, and the stages of early recovery last up to a year. The major organs in your body have been living under assault from heroin or other opiates, and they have to adjust and heal. As the biochemical assault lets up on your organs, your brain will respond in a variety of ways.

Fear and Anxiety

Even if you don’t normally suffer from emotional disturbances such as stress or anxiety, it’s natural to experience similar feelings during the early stages of recovery. What if you relapse? Can you enjoy life without drugs? What if the methadone or buprenorphine for opiate drug addiction treatment doesn’t work properly and you experience horrible side effects—or worse yet, it doesn’t work at all?

That’s why it’s so important to talk with the counselors and doctors at your local methadone program. They have gained the education to answer all your questions and help you anticipate the changes that are affecting you. Attending groups and 12-step meetings also helps you get over your fears because you can talk to other people who have been through your troubles. Getting input from those who have already done this will help you give a sigh of relief.

Mood Swings During Opiate Drug Addiction Treatment

With all the physical and emotional changes you are undergoing, it’s natural to experience mood swings. Some days you’ll feel happy about your progress and confident about your prognosis for success. Other days you’ll miss the old habits and friends and imagine what it would be like to go back to that old life just one last time—but you can’t do it. So it’s natural for your moods to jump up and down, and even to fluctuate pretty wildly. Not even pregnant women’s moods can change as rapidly as those of the people in opiate drug addiction treatment! But you will get through this.

How can you fight those mood swings? You can HALT them—or at least minimize them—by remembering you should never let yourself get too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely, or too Tired.

Dreams and Sleep Disturbances

People in the early stages of opiate drug addiction treatment report an increase in the number and intensity of their dreams. Using drugs, including opiates, marijuana, and even alcohol, interferes with the brain’s stages of sleep. The stage of sleep when dreams occur is suppressed. People addicted to opiates therefore sleep poorly—and increase their physical response to pain. So when you’re using opiates, you don’t sleep well and you experience the continued need for pain relief.

Once you stop putting opiates into your body, you sleep better. Since your brain reaches REM, the stage during which dreams take place, they seem vivid and plentiful. However, the more you’ve abused your body with opiates, other drugs, and alcohol, the longer it will take until you can remain steadily in delta sleep, the deepest level. Your mind will feel anxious until your dreams stabilize. Your body will feel tired because it’s recovering from a long period of sustained abuse. It takes time until it feels healthy once again. Be patient.

Your Digestive System

Opiate drug addiction treatment poses two dilemmas to those in recovery. First of all, many of the people taking methadone gain weight. And second, it’s true that methadone and buprenorphine can also cause constipation. You’ll find recommendations for combating both side effects elsewhere on this website.

Before recovery, you were focused on getting your next high, and you paid little attention to eating right or exercising regularly. Now that you are in recovery and the street life is a thing of the past, it’s a good idea to practice exercise and revise your diet so that you can eat regularly, be regular, and heal like a regular person.

Memory Problems

One of the biggest changes in your brain is the interruption in its supply of agonistic opiate drugs. Opiates interfere with the parts of the brain that affect recent memory. Even though methadone is an agonist opiate and buprenorphine is a partial agonist, they are much easier on your system than heroin or pain pills.

The longer you’ve used opiates and the higher your dose, the worse your memory will be. Now that you’re sober, you’ll notice just how bad it is. You’ll be frustrated by your poor memory—and it takes a while until it improves. It’s a good idea to keep a small notebook in your pocket so you can jot down appointments. “I just forgot” is no longer going to be an acceptable excuse. This will improve with time.

Setting Unrealistic Goals

With success in the early stages of your opiate drug addiction treatment, you will become impatient with yourself. Expecting too much, too fast, can create ripples and even fractures in the landscape of your new recovery. Experts say that you should not plan on major changes in your life during the first year. Work on maintaining recovery and wait for your mind and body to regain normal function.

While you’ll avoid most changes, it’s okay to protect yourself from risks or immediate danger—if you’re living with someone who uses drugs or abuses you, then find a new place to live. Your counselor can help you with housing resources as well as your emotional acceptance of this huge change. But for the most part, jot down the things you’d like to achieve. Talk them over with your counselor, and then just keep your wish list on hold until your recovery gains strength.

People Who Want You to Use

Yes, there are people out there who won’t be too happy that you’re in opiate drug addiction recovery. Those are the people you used to hang out with, the ones you got high with. It’s not that they hope for your failure; it’s just that they don’t want to use drugs alone. If they can talk you into using with them, then they won’t feel so bad about themselves. Avoid the people, places, and things that were a part of your old life.

Remember that it takes time for your body to recover from long-term use of heroin or pain pills. Using alcohol or other illicit substances can also affect you, just another reason for maintaining sobriety while you’re in opiate drug addiction treatment. Talk to your methadone program counselor and your doctor about these symptoms as they occur. They will help because they want your recovery to be successful!

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