Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Can I go cold turkey to stop abusing opioids?
While going "cold turkey," or suddenly stopping the use of opioids, might seem like a fast way to begin recovery, it's generally not recommended due to the severity of withdrawal symptoms and potential health risks.
Opioid withdrawal can be intensely uncomfortable and, in some cases, hazardous. Symptoms can include severe cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements. In severe cases, withdrawal can lead to serious dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.
Furthermore, abruptly stopping opioid use can significantly increase the risk of relapse. The discomfort of withdrawal symptoms may make it more difficult to stay abstinent, and an individual may be tempted to use again just to relieve these symptoms. If a person relapses and takes the same dose they were previously accustomed to, the risk of overdose is high because the body's tolerance to the substance has decreased.
For these reasons, opioid withdrawal should ideally be managed under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which includes medications like methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone), and naltrexone, can be used to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These medications work by acting on the same brain receptors targeted by opioids, but they do so in a safer manner that helps to manage withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse.
In addition to MAT, counseling and behavioral therapies are typically part of a comprehensive treatment program for opioid use disorder. These approaches can help individuals develop the skills and strategies needed to maintain recovery in the long term.
Why are lgbtq+ individuals at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse?
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others) individuals are indeed at a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse due to a variety of factors that often intersect and compound over time. These factors primarily relate to the stress and challenges associated with living as a marginalized group in many societies. Here are some of the main factors:
Minority Stress: This term refers to the chronic stress faced by individuals belonging to a stigmatized minority group. For LGBTQ+ individuals, this can stem from societal prejudice, discrimination, and violence related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Such stressors can contribute to increased substance use as a coping mechanism.
Stigma and Discrimination: Experiences of rejection, exclusion, and maltreatment can increase feelings of anxiety and depression, which are associated with higher substance use rates. This can occur in various settings, including workplaces, schools, and even within families and social networks.
Internalized Negative Self-Perceptions: LGBTQ+ individuals may internalize societal biases and develop negative self-perceptions about their identity, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. These feelings can contribute to the misuse of substances as a form of self-medication.
Lack of Inclusive Healthcare: Many healthcare systems lack the resources or training to provide culturally competent care to LGBTQ+ individuals. This can make it difficult for these individuals to seek help or access effective treatment for substance use disorders.
Social Isolation: Feelings of isolation, which can be the result of rejection or non-acceptance by family, friends, or society, can increase the risk of substance use and misuse.
Intersectional Identity Stressors: LGBTQ+ individuals who also belong to other marginalized groups (like racial or ethnic minorities) may face additional stressors that can increase the risk of substance abuse.
How to help someone that is detoxing from opioids?
Helping someone detoxing from opioids is a delicate process that requires careful attention, support, and understanding. Here are some ways you can assist:
Encourage Professional Help: Detoxing from opioids should ideally be done under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Encourage them to seek professional help, as this ensures their safety throughout the process and provides them with the best chance for successful recovery.
Learn About Opioid Withdrawal: Understanding the process of opioid withdrawal can help you be more empathetic and supportive. Symptoms can include anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and flu-like symptoms such as sweating and diarrhea. Also, be aware of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which can present psychological symptoms like mood swings and depression for weeks or months after the initial detox period.
Provide Emotional Support: Be patient, understanding, and supportive. Listen to them, be there for them, and reassure them that they're not alone in this process. Avoid shaming or blaming, which can increase feelings of guilt and discourage recovery efforts.
Support Their Treatment Plan: Help them stick to their treatment plan. This could involve driving them to appointments, ensuring they take prescribed medications, or helping them manage their schedule to accommodate therapy or support group meetings.
Promote Healthy Habits: Encourage them to eat healthily, exercise, and get enough sleep. These habits can help strengthen their physical health and resilience during detox and recovery.
Limit Triggers: Help create an environment that minimizes triggers for drug use. This might involve clearing out substances and paraphernalia, or avoiding places or people associated with drug use.
Join a Support Group: Consider attending a support group for friends and family members of people with substance use disorders, such as Nar-Anon. These groups can offer valuable advice, resources, and support for you as you help your loved one.
Take Care of Yourself: Supporting someone through detox can be emotionally demanding. Make sure to take care of your own mental and physical health, too. Self-care isn't selfish�''it's crucial for you to be able to provide sustained support to your loved one.