Especially in the case of opioid addiction, the physical challenge of recovery can be especially painful. The human brain adapts itself to the presence of opioids and when the opioids are no longer there it takes some time for the brain to readjust. In the meantime, the former victim of opioid addiction experiences an almost complete lack of pleasure. The presence of opioids has caused the brain to lower its own pleasure-producing neurochemicals and to increase the amount of such neurochemicals needed to generate a pleasant feeling. The result, again, is that the former victim of opioid addiction is left a nearly complete lack of pleasant feelings. In addition, the former addict experiences a great deal of physical pain
Opioid withdrawal symptoms begin mere hours after use of opioids is terminated. Symptoms include nausea, muscle cramping, depression, agitation, difficulty sleeping, runny nose, excessive sweating, racing heart and anxiety. After a few days, diarrhea and stomach cramps may develop. Cravings for the drug may continue for some time. In addition, if psychological problems were part of the reason why drug abuse initially started, these symptoms may reappear.
Because of this, many recovering opioid addicts make use of medication assisted treatment using chemicals such as naltrexone and methadone. These chemicals eliminate the high that victims of opioid abuse formerly received from their drug, without the addictive properties of opioids. Additionally, Methadone blocks the high that addicts received from opioids. Even if the person should continue to abuse opioids, they will not experience the accompanying high that they did previously. Naltrexone provides similar support to recovering opioid addicts.
There are a variety of opinions regarding the duration of medicine assisted recovery, ranging from several months to several years. Dosage is often reduced as the person continues through recovery. Unfortunately, some people on medicine assisted treatment discover that they develop an addiction to methadone. This will require them to withdraw from Methadone as they previously did from opioids, although the recovery will be much easier than the recovery from opioids. The ultimate goal, of course, is complete cessation of the medication. Beyond providing some alleviation of the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, medicine assisted recovery helps the victim of addiction to participate in addiction counseling. They will learn skills to manage their lives without opioids or other drugs. At some point, the victim of opioid addiction will be able to manage their lives without either opioids or other medications. Some people claim that the habit of using drugs to manage their lives will never entirely go away. The hope is that, through addiction counseling, the person will learn to manage such cravings.