Opiate Use and Abuse

Persistent opiate use, abuse and dependence (often termed “addiction”) are now widely recognized as an induced brain disorder by such disparate organizations as the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. People differ in their response to drugs as well as their tendency to develop a dependency.  Those who develop a substance use disorder are a heterogeneous population. For many the disorder is characterized by an initial sense of wellbeing or euphoria while using opiates or a sense of feeling “normal.” Symptoms of anxiety, panic, irritability, attention deficit and even depression may be suppressed.   Others may not like the feeling of taking the medication, but need it for pain relief.  However, with ongoing use there is increasing tolerance to the opiate and negative consequences begin to occur.

 

Over time the effects of continued use change.  The feeling euphoria, well being and/or pain relief diminish so the individual tends to increase the dose to achieve the prior effect and cannot feel normal without the drug.  Without the drug, he/she may become depressed, anxious and irritable.  Attempts to stop using bring on extremely unpleasant physical withdrawal symptoms:  Sweating, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps, joint pain, sleeplessness, chills, nasal flow, and cramping .  The symptoms are so numerous, painful and ongoing that the individual may soon find him/herself in a prison of constant drug seeking primarily to avoid the misery of withdrawal and with none of the pleasant feelings that the drug afforded in the beginning.

 

The Substance Use Disorder is often called addiction.  Addiction is NOT:

 

 It is NOT a weakness;

 

 It is NOT a moral failing;

 

It is NOT an indication of bad character; in fact, it can happen to anyone, and is often unintentional.  People who fall victim to addiction may be our neighbors, friends, families and coworkers.  Their fall into addiction is not always a matter of poor judgment or bad choices; it often isn’t recognized until the addiction has already established.

What starts out as attempt to relieve pain from surgery or a car accident morphs into another problem altogether, one that can cost the individual his/her family, career, reputation, home and perhaps his/her life.

 

How Addictions Work

Simply put, opiates attach to their receptors in the brain and so minimize the intensity of pain that the individual feels.  They can cause the individual to feel drowsy, lethargic and mentally confused as well as causing constipation. High doses result in depression of breathing, which can be fatal.

 

Over time it is not uncommon for the need for the drug to increase. When the drug seeking becomes compulsive and all-encompassing, the dependence becomes a dangerous addiction.

Treatments

Fortunately, there are treatment options available that are effective and lifesaving.  It is important to note, however, that NO ONE TREATMENT OPTION IS RIGHT FOR EVERYONE.  Each person is an individual and brings his/her own set of unique issues to treatment; there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Each person must own his/her recovery and work with a qualified physician to find the right setting and circumstances to best achieve their goal.  Some people with other medical problems will require inpatient treatment, with follow up care upon release.  Some people will benefit from outpatient treatment under the guidance of a qualified physician who can help the patient with medication, personal advice and recommendations.  Additional personal or group counseling is recommended.

 

Dr. Westerman is a board certified addiction psychiatrist with more than 20 years of experience in outpatient substance abuse treatment.  He uses the modern, GOLD STANDARD treatment, buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv), as part of a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the needs of the individual patient. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is recognized as effective for those appropriate to outpatient treatment in that the patient does not have to leave home, job and family in order to begin recovery.   With the use of appropriate medications prescribed by the doctor (detoxification), the patient can find relief from cravings and the suffering of withdrawal symptoms rapidly as well as the clarity of mind necessary to understand and cooperate with the treatment plan and effect a recovery.  This can be done discreetly so as not to interfere with the patient’s other life activities.  If other problems surface such as anxiety, panic, depression and attention deficit, those can be appropriately treated so that they will not cause a relapse.

 

Each patient meets individually and privately with the doctor to discuss progress, any barriers to recovery and receive any medications necessary to support the goals of treatment.  The patent can function normally in work and family obligations while pursuing his/her treatment in private.

 

We also have a licensed and experienced therapist, Paula Sheldon, on staff who can offer marriage, family and individual therapy to help the patient and families resolve lingering issues related to the opiate problem in the home.

 

Common Treatments

Substance Abuse Treatment

Depression

Anxiety

Mood Disorders

Panic Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Adult A.D.D.

Chemical Dependencies

Additional Treatments We Offer

Suboxone detoxification and maintenance

Psychotherapy

Psychotropic Medications

Abstinence Medications for Smoking, Drinking, Drugs

Psychiatric Evaluations for licensing and impaired professionals

WE CAN HELP

702-341-6411

Dr. Westerman’s office and staff offer a welcoming, supportive, non-judgmental environment to patients and families.  We can help you find your way back to the happy and productive life you deserve.  Call our office and schedule an appointment today and take the first step to your new, better, drug-free life.

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