Could You Benefit from Opioid Rehab in Colorado?
"The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope."
~ Russell Brand
As a former addict, Russell Brand gets it. He understands the power of addiction. He understands that those who are dependent on opioids are powerless to stop. Until they have help. And help means hope.
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Opioid addiction is a critical issue in the state of Colorado. But that doesn't mean that we can't overcome it.
One individual at a time. One piece of helpful information at a time. One step at a time. That's what we're here for.
According to a recent headline, more Coloradans died in 2017 from drug overdoses than any year in the history of the state. The Denver Post reported that the opioid epidemic in Colorado affects urban and rural areas almost equally. "If you look at the numbers," one official said, "everywhere in Colorado has a problem."
In total, Colorado recorded 558 opioid overdose deaths in 2017. This includes both prescription opioids and illegal opioids (like heroin).
There is no question that the opioid epidemic is very real in Colorado. It has affected thousands of individuals, families and loved ones of addicts. What we want to make clear is that help is never out of reach. And we want to help you get that help. In this guide to opioid rehab in Colorado, we cover everything you need to know about opioid addiction and treatment.
- Opioid Basics: What they are and how the drug works
- Prescription vs. Recreational use of opioids
- The realities of opioid abuse in Guatemala
- Opioid abuse and use statistics
- Drug dependence and and addiction
- The life-cycle of opioid addiction
- Opioid withdrawal symptoms and detox
- Types of therapy for opioid rehab
- Your opioid rehab options in Colorado
Use these statistics, research insights, and real-world examples to get a better idea how opioid rehab works - and why it's important.
What are Opioids?
Opioid medications are technically considered natural. The class of drug is made from the opium poppy plant. But opioids are not always natural. Sometimes prescription drugs (and illicit drugs, like heroin) are made directly from the poppy plant. But the drug can be made synthetically as well. These types of opioids are made in a lab, using a similar chemical structure.
Medically, opioids are used primarily to treat severe pain. Prescription opioids are typically prescribed after surgery or surgery or a bone injury. They are also often prescribed to treat chronic pain.
Some of the most common prescription opioids include:
- Hydrocodone (i.e. Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (i.e. OxyContin or Percocet)
- Oxymorphone (i.e. Opana)
- Hydromorphone (i.e. Dilaudid)
- Oxycodone and naloxone
Each of these prescription opioids are designed to treat pain. But they can vary in strength and prescription vs. recreational use.
Opioids react naturally in the body, attaching to your nervous system's pain receptors. Once attached, the chemical response blocks pain from being sent to your brain. The drug essentially tricks your brain into thinking your body isn't feeling pain.
At the same time, this chemical bond releases dopamine into your body. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that affects emotion. It typically bringing feelings of pleasure. It's a kind of reward for the brain.
The medical purpose of opioids is to block pain. But it is the release of dopamine that makes opioids dangerously addictive. We'll dive into this process more below. For now, check out this biological progression to opioid addiction:
- Dopamine. The initial biological response to the presence of opioids. Increases relaxation and pleasure.
- Dependency. When opioids are used for longer than a few weeks, the body can become dependent on the dopamine to feel ‘normal'.
- Tolerance. Over time, the body will become less responsive to opioids. It will need larger doses to feel the same effects.
- Abuse. The individual will start to use opioids outside of the prescription to feel the same pleasurable effects.
- Addiction. With continued abuse and dependency, the individual can become addicted. This means both a physical and psychological need for the drug.
When used under clinical supervision, opioids can be effective and safe drugs. But when they are abused, they can be very dangerous. The dose must be carefully chosen to match the pain. Extreme pain left untreated can lead to much more abuse and addiction.
Watch: The Science of Opioids. This video covers two major questions about prescription opioids. How do opioids work, and what is the effect on human bodies? To understand the science of opioids is to understand the severity of the crisis in CO. It also means understanding the true impact of opioid addiction.
Here's the bottom line: opioids can be addictive in any circumstances outside the strict guidelines of a prescription. Read on to understand how this reality has affected Colorado - and what abuse and addiction look like.
Understanding the Opioid Epidemic in Colorado
The science of opioids makes it no surprise that people become addicted to prescription painkillers, and then move on to heroin. The National Institute for Drug Abuse called this a " serious national crisis." It is affecting public health and social welfare. So what is the opioid epidemic really all about?
There are two realities that have lead to the opioid epidemic:
- Opioids (both illicit and prescription) are highly addictive.
- Opioid prescriptions have risen dramatically in the last 20 years.
In fact, prescription opioid sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2014. And they only continue to rise. Colorado has 52-71 opioid prescriptions per 100 people. This means over half the population has an opioid prescription.
Check out this look at drug overdose data and treatment options in Colorado: Colorado's opioid epidemic explained in 10 graphics.
Some of the statistics revealed in this article are truly sobering. Consider the following about the opioid epidemic in Colorado:
- Access to all four types of opioid addiction treatment are available in less than 20% of CO counties.
- Heroin-related overdose deaths in Colorado rose from 37 to 228 between 2006 and 2016.
- Colorado is ranked 32nd in the nation for the rate of drug-overdose deaths.
There is clearly an opioid crisis in Colorado. We want to address how to get people the help that they need for addiction recovery. Check out this take from CPR on the underlying causes of the opioid epidemic in Colorado:
"Why is this happening? You have a confluence of three big trends. One is a changing attitude that started decades ago about treating pain, both for patients and medical providers. Another is the legal side of the opioid crisis: big pharmaceutical companies creating and promoting a number of painkillers, drugs that are extremely addicting. And the third is the illegal drug trade, which of course has taken off."
~ John Daley, Colorado Public Radio
Opioid Use and Abuse in CO: Statistics and News
We already know that opioid overdose deaths are at an all time high in Colorado. Here are a few more statistics from the National Institute of Drug Abuse:
- Almost 30% of patients using opioids are misusing them.
- Around 10% of prescription opioid users develop an opioid use disorder.
- Around 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids end up using heroin.
- 80% of heroin users started by using prescription opioids.
- 4.3 million Americans have used prescription painkillers non-medically in the past month.
- Almost 2 million Americans meet the definition of substance use disorder. This is due to their prescription painkillers.
The statistics make it clear that opioid use and abuse is no joking matter. Thankfully, Colorado lawmakers are taking steps toward addressing the epidemic.
The measures would "address the shortage of healthcare professionals in certain areas, spend $2.5 million on prevention programs, streamline coverage regulations for those seeking help and pursue federal approval to expand Medicaid to cover residential drug treatment programs."
The best way to understand how to address the opioid crisis is to understand opioid use and addiction. So let's jump in.
Sometimes you'll see ‘opioids' and sometimes ‘opiates'. What's the difference? Is there one?
The short answer is yes - but the difference subtle. Like we mentioned before, opioids can be either naturally derived from the opium poppy plant or chemically recreated in a lab. In contrast, opiatesrefer only to drugs that come from the opium plant. Opioids refer to a broader range of painkilling drugs; opiates are much more specific.
- Examples of opiates: Morphine, codeine and heroin.
- Examples of synthetic opioids: Methadone, fentanyl, and oxycodone.
In talking about these differences, we should mention the difference between clinical and recreational use of opioids.
- Legal Opioids: This typically includes prescription opioid pain medication, like Oxycontin or Vicodin. It can also include methadone, which is used to medically manage opioid withdrawal.
- Illegal Opioids: Heroin is an illicit opioid drug used to get high. Illegal opioids can also include painkillers that are sold or bought without a prescription.
Both legal and illicit opioids can be used recreationally - and both are highly addictive. Prescription opioids can lead to a high if they are chewed, snorted, or used in large quantities. Note: For the purpose of this article we will use opioid to refer to the entire family of opiates
"Prescription opioids and heroin are chemically similar and can produce a similar high. In some places, heroin is cheaper and easier to get than prescription opioids, so some people switch to using heroin instead. Nearly 80 percent of Americans using heroin (including those in treatment) reported misusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin."
How does someone get addicted to opioids?
Nobody ever tries to become addicted to drugs - least of all opioids. But we've already noted that both legal and illegal opioids can be extremely addictive. Because of that, people can start down the slow road to abuse, dependence and addiction.
"Historically they have been used as painkillers, but they also have great potential for misuse. Repeated use of opioids greatly increases the risk of developing an opioid use disorder."
-Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
How does addiction start in the first place? There are typically two scenarios. In the first, someone is prescribed opioids as a painkiller. If the medication is used long-term, they may develop a tolerance to the drug. They'll then start to up doses without the doctor's permission. This kind of self-medication can easily lead to dependence and addiction. Sometimes, people will turn to heroin to find a cheaper alternative.
The other scenario is when people get the drug from friends or drug dealers to use recreationally. People will the powerful narcotics to get high. They are unaware of the dangers of addiction.
Abusing both prescription opioids and heroin is truly a slippery slope. One use turns into regular use. Regular use turns into tolerance. Tolerance turns into abuse. Abuse turns into dependence. Dependence turns into addiction. Consider this life-cycle of opioid addiction - and treatment.
- First Use. Starting out with prescription opioids appears safe enough. After all, they are prescribed by your doctor. But valid medical use can easily turn to abuse if you aren't careful.
- Building Tolerance. Opioids were meant to be used only in the short-term. But sometimes prescriptions are for longer. With long-term use, your body can build up a tolerance to the drug's effects. This is why some medical professionals recommend taking prescription opioids for no more than a couple of weeks.
- Increasing Dosage/Abuse. Building up tolerance means you'll have to increase your dose to reach the same effects. This increased dosage is dangerous outside of medical supervision, and is considered drug abuse.
- Physical Dependence. After awhile, your body starts to become dependent on the drug just to function normally. Instead of using it to block pain, you may end up using it to feel normal, happy or relaxed.
- Addiction. Getting addicted to opioids means that your body is telling you that you can't go without them. Addiction manifests in withdrawal symptoms and the inability to control use.
- Recognition & Treatment. Those struggling with opioid addiction are not without recourse. Once someone recognizes the signs of addiction, they can choose to get the help that they need. This involves detox, rehab and therapy, and after care.
If this life-cycle of addiction goes unchecked, it can lead to lifelong debilitating addiction. Sometimes, it can lead to an overdose death.
Overdosing on Opioids
An overdose is what happens when opioid dependence and self-medication are not addressed. As someone increases the amount of opioids they use, they may lose track. Taking opiates in large doses is often fatal.
In larger quantities, opioids affect the body in lethal ways. The drug impacts the area of the brain the regulates breathing. When using prescription opioids normally, your breathing rate may slow marginally. When abusing the drug, your breath may slow to the point of stopping.
Opioids can also affect the heart rhythm, blood pressure and gag reflex. The combination of these effects is what often leads to an opioid overdose.
Note: the risk of an overdose skyrockets when you use opioids with other substances. Prescription opioids should never be used as the same time as stimulants or other depressants, like alcohol.
First things first: call 911! Someone experiencing an opioid overdose needs immediate emergency medical assistance.
While waiting, make sure to monitor the person closely. If they are non responsive, try to get them to respond. If they are not breathing (and you are CPR trained) you should perform CPR. Once professionals arrive, they can administer naloxone - designed to reverse overdose symptoms.
Depending on the drug, opioids can stay in your system for up to 3 days. This means they can be detected in your blood or urine. For hair follicle testing, some opioids (like morphine) can be detected up to 90 days after the last dose.
It can take a lot longer to actually ‘get clean' from opioids. As we'll see below, opioid withdrawal can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The most intense symptoms will be in the first couple of days, but some withdrawal symptoms can last longer.
If you're looking to rid your system of the toxic effects of opioid abuse, you've come to the right place. If you just want to feel normal and get your life back on track, read on to learn more about opioid rehab in Colorado.
Opioid Withdrawal, Detox and Rehab
We've already established just how detrimental opioid abuse and addiction can be. The statistics and expert insight make it clear. So the next question is - what can we do about it?
We want to cover the major topics and questions relevant to recovery from opioid addiction. We want to walk you through this process, covering three questions:
- What does opioid withdrawal look like?
- What does opioid detox look like?
- What do my options for opioid rehab in Colorado look like?
Understanding the Opioid Withdrawal Process
Opioid withdrawal happens when users stop using the drug. If you are currently abusing or addicted to opioids, you will likely experience withdrawal. In fact, experiencing withdrawal symptoms can be a major sign of addiction.
The withdrawal process is relatively straightforward. Your body is trying to tell you that you need opioids. But that doesn't mean it's easy. These are a couple of common questions about opioid withdrawal and detox:
Withdrawal typically starts within 6-12 hours of the last opioid dose. These symptoms cause discomfort, but are followed by more dramatic symptoms at the 24-48 hour mark. Symptoms usually peak at 72 hours, becoming much less intense after a few days. Some minor symptoms can last for a few weeks.
Once you decide to quit opioids, you'll need to face the effects. You'll experience both physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Here are a few common opioid withdrawal symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Anxiety or depression
- Inability to sleep
- Muscle pain
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Chills and sweating
- A higher heart rate and blood pressure
- Stomach cramps
- Intense cravings for the drug
With these symptoms in mind, it's clear that opioid withdrawal can be dangerous on your own. If withdrawal is not carefully monitored, it can sometimes lead to death. This is where detox comes in.
Opioid Detox - The First Step to Recovery
Detox is the process of ridding the body of the toxic effects of opioids. These toxins and negative effects have built up for the duration of the opioid abuse.
Detox is a very important first step on the road to recovery. But you should know that it only deals with the physical aspect of addiction. Completing an opioid detox may not be enough to truly recover from addiction. Rehab programs often include detox as the first stage, and then move on to therapy and group support.
In general, there are just two ways of detoxing: doing it yourself or getting professional help.
- At-home detox. The DIY approach means quitting cold turkey. Sometimes people use kits, special diets or regimens to help them through the process. We want to note: this is a very dangerous way to detox from opioids. Withdrawal symptoms can be lethal if they are not properly monitored and managed.
- Professional detox. Medically-monitored detox lets people go through withdrawal in a safe and professional environment. Sometimes, Medically Assisted Treatment is required. Addicts will use methadone or other medications to help them ease the withdrawal process.
Some people consider quitting cold turkey dangerous. Medically Assisted Treatment uses medication to manage withdrawal during detox. It is sometimes called Opioid Replacement Therapy. The two most common medications used for opioid withdrawal are Suboxone and Methadone. When used the right way, these medications are used as part of a holistic treatment program. They are not designed to substitute drug addiction with a new kind of dependence.
Getting Professional Help for Opioid Rehab in Colorado
The very first step to kicking opioid addiction to the curb is detox. Ridding your body of the toxic effects of the drug brings physical freedom. The next step is to bring freedom over your life. With that goal, rehab is the next logical step. It makes the most sense if you have tried quitting before or been using opioids for longer than a few months.
Detox is an important part of recovery, but it only deals with the physical effects of opioid dependence. Opioid rehab in Colorado addresses the full range of effects. These include the psychological need to keep using and the negative impact of addiction on family and relationships.
If you're considering getting help for your opioid addiction, you may be considering professional drug rehab. If that's the case, we want you to know it's a good decision. But What do they have at a rehab facility that can't be accomplished alone?
The major benefit of opioid rehab is that it minimizes the risk of relapse. During the detox stage, addicts are particularly prone to relapse. Their body is trying to tell them that they need the opiates. Without professional help and proper care, they may just give in. At the same time, relapse in this stage can be dangerous. There are lower levels of the drug in the body and days or weeks without the drug. The body is no longer accustomed to handling the quantities it did before, so the risk of overdose is quite high.
The other benefit is that rehab gives you the support you'll need to fall back on when the going gets tough. We mentioned before that detox is just the first step of the recovery process. Rehab walks you through the rest.
In general, you have two options for opioid rehab in Colorado: inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment.
Inpatient Rehab Basics. With this option, you live at the rehab facility for the duration of treatment. Treatment is more intensive, and programs are shorter (i.e. 4 weeks to 2 months). The benefit is 24-hour attention, but these programs tend to cost more.
Outpatient Rehab Basics. Intensive outpatient programs let participants live at home. They attend sessions at the center several times each week. This gives some flexibility to the program and offers many of the same services and therapy approaches. Outpatient programs typically last longer - around 3 months. They can also be a much cheaper alternative.
Intensive Outpatient Treatment has been shown to be an effective approach to opioid rehab. And it adds flexibility to the program! Either option - inpatient or outpatient - can be extremely helpful in getting your life back on track. The important thing is to ask yourself which approach is right for you.
All opioid rehab programs have the same goal: to get you well on your way on the road to recovery. But there are a few different therapy approaches used in these programs. Here are the most common types of therapy used in opioid rehab:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is one of the most common forms of therapy used by addiction counselors today. The approach focuses on how thoughts influence actions and feelings - and vice versa. Rather than simple talk therapy, CBT homes in on how to solve problems like addiction.
Neurofeedback Therapy. This therapy approach retrains the brain after detox, decreasing the chance of relapse. The approach teaches self-regulation, opening participants up to other forms of rehab therapy.
EMDR. This stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Patients recall stressful images or memories while tracking movement quickly. The process makes these memories less painful and easier to regulate. EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating traumatic experiences - including addiction.
Group Sessions. A crucial part of rehab is to find support from your peers. Groups like Narcotics Anonymous are extremely helpful in this area. Most rehab programs include group sessions to start participants down that path.
Family Sessions. Addiction rarely affects just one person. Bringing families and loved ones into the recovery process will help addicts come to terms with the effects of their drug abuse. These sessions can also help encourage healing for everyone.
AspenRidge Recovery: Opioid Rehab Options in Colorado
Our mission here at AspenRidge Recovery is simple. We offer people the tools that they need to live successful and sober lives. To reach that goal, we use evidence-based therapeutic methods in a safe and accountable setting.
AspenRidge offers a 12-step approach to opioid rehab in Colorado. Using this approach, we offer intensive outpatient treatment, addiction counseling and co-occurring disorder treatment. We recognize that family and community systems are impacted by addiction, and aim to treat these issues as well.
"Yes, it's getting worse, and it continues to grow. It's a long problem. I'm of the mind that it's going to be anywhere from five to 10 years until we see this thing turn."
-Rob Valuck, director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Prevention
AspenRidge may not be the right option for everyone. But we want to get you on the path to recovery. We recognize the gravity of the opioid crisis in Colorado. And we are here to help.
Addiction is a disease. This means it can be managed with professional help. Recovery is not an overnight process. It takes commitment and time - but there is hope. For the next steps, don't hesitate to contact us today.