Dope Sickness and MAT Strategies

“If you’ve ever had the flu it’s like that, but times 100,” said Arizona writer Diane Woodruff. She’s explaining what it feels like to be dope sick, a term referring to the sickness people feel when they’re withdrawing from opioid drugs such as codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin), morphine, fentanyl, or heroin.

Also known as dopesickness, dope sickness may produce a host of unpleasant symptoms, such as

• Sweating
• Nausea and vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Shaking
• Insomnia
• Anxiety
• Depression

Such unpleasantness drives people to continue using opioid drugs. They use drugs not to get high but because they don’t want to feel sick and miserable. The unpleasant sensations are also a reason why many outpatient and inpatient rehab programs use prescription drugs during supervised detox procedures.

This drug-assisted process is called medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT often utilizes drugs such as Suboxone (a combination of the drugs buprenorphine and naloxone) and methadone to dull the side effects and cravings of withdrawal.

Despite its apparent benefits, MAT has generated considerable controversy. Critics charge that it

• Replaces one addiction for another since it uses drugs to treat drug addiction
• Is expensive and may not be available for everyone who needs it
• Can take time with extended treatment programs
• May require people to spend time in treatment away from jobs, families, and responsibilities
• Could introduce former drug addicts to other drugs that may be addictive

Still, MAT has helped many. It looks especially encouraging in fighting relapses from sobriety. While relapses from sobriety after treatment are sadly common, they appear less common when people receive MAT.

One study found that eighteen months after a group of people started MAT for opioid abuse, 50 percent of the people said they no longer used the drugs they once abused. After three and a half years of the therapy, 61 percent of people said they no longer abused drugs.

Treatment can help people feel better in the short-term and help them stay off drugs in the long-term. This is treatment certainly worth researching and utilizing. It’s certainly better than being dope sick or addicted.