How to help a buprenorphine addict?

Are you struggling with buprenorphine addiction? Drug problems can be treated. Help is available. Find out how you can treat buprenorphine addiction for yourself or a loved one here.

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Addiction treatment works

Taking buprenorphine as prescribed by a doctor typcially does not result in addiction. However, people take it recreationally due for its opioid agonist effects. They mix it with alcohol or other substances to achieve a greater high or they use it outside of prescription guidelines. The bottom line is that when you use buprenorphine other than prescribed, you risk becoming addicted to it.

How can you help yourself or someone else fight buprenorphine addiction? We suggest that you address addiction with the help and support of a comprehensive treatment program. What does treatment look like?

Continue reading here to learn more about buprenorphine addiction treatment protocols and methods. Plus, we’ll let you know what you can do to help an addicted friend, family member, or a loved one. At the end, we welcome your questions in the comments section at the bottom of the page. We try to respond to all real life questions personally.

Help a buprenorphine addict quit

Most people can’t overcome an addiction on their own. They need professional help to return to a healthy life. Evidence based treatment programs consist of three equally important components:

  1. Medication(s)
  2. Professional and psychological help
  3. Friends and family support

What’s the first step?

Before a person can start treatment for buprenorphine addiction, it is important to acknowledge the addiction. A person in denial needs to become aware of the problem. But often it’s difficult to recognize the symptoms of addiction.

When is buprenorphine a problem?

Regular, daily dosing of buprenorphine leads to drug dependence. However, dependence is not the same as addiction. Dependence is characterized as a physical dependence on a psychoactive drug. When you become drug-dependent and stop using the drug, you experience withdrawal. But once you’re through withdrawal, you don’t need the drug.

On the other hand, addiction is characterized as a compulsive, pyschological dependence. People who are addicted to drugs go through withdrawal but cannot quit using a drug for good.

One of the first indications that a person has become psychologically dependent on buprenorphine is feeling unable to limit the use of this medication. Another telltale sign is the continued use of the drug, despite negative consequences to health, home, or work. If you start craving buprenorphine, taking it more frequently or in higher doses than recommended, or think about it compulsively, you may be ‘hooked’ on buprenorphine.

Other changes that can indicate problem use include:

  1. Behavior and mood changes.
  2. Emotional responses that are uncharacteristic or irrational.
  3. Lack of attention to physical appearance.

When you face reality and start to accept the fact that you have a problem, you can seek professional help.

Preparing for treatment

Preparations for addiction treatment consist of gathering information and considering several options before entering a program. We have a few suggestions that you can make a part of a checklist when seeking the right buprenorphine addiction program.

1. Choosing a treatment facility that fits your needs

During the search for rehab, you should ask about options and types of therapies used. Is the rehab center dependent on 12-Step facilitation models, for example? What’s the treatment philosophy? Also, it’s good to collect information about the medication management and the aftercare plans, as well as alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation.

2. Health insurance coverage

It is also important to find out whether your insurance will cover the cost of treatment (or at least a part of the cost), or not. More precisely, you should ask the following information when gathering information from particular treatment facilities:

  • Is my insurance going to cover any part of my treatment costs?
  • How much will I owe?
  • What are my payment options?
  • Are there any local state programs that can help with my treatment costs?

3. The Role of the Family in Treatment

Another thing to consider before you enter buprenorphine treatment is the role of your family and loved ones into therapy. Will family members be active in the treatment modalities? Is family therapy a part of the treatment process? How often can family visit you during your stay?

4. Location

The geographic location of your chosen facility plays a significant role in your costs. On the other hand, distance from drug-related issues, friends, drug buddies, and triggers can be a helping factor in overcoming your addiction problem.

NOTE: It is very important to remember that once you make the decision to seek help for your drug addiction, you should not turn back or hesitate. Once you have encouraged yourself, gathered the will, and decided that you want to live a buprenorphine-free life…do not change your mind.

You can do this!

Choosing treatment

All good addiction rehab programs should be operated by medical professionals and trained addiction treatment staff. The most successful programs include both medical and psychological health services. In addition, the program should be tailored to your individual needs, because every addiction issue and every person is different. Generally, you can expect your buprenorphine addiction treatment to consist of the following steps:

  • Assessment and Evaluation
  • Detoxification, if necessary
  • Psychotherapy & Behavioral Counseling
  • Medication Assisted Treatment
  • Aftercare Programs (to prevent relapse)

Individual and group counseling form the basis of most addiction treatment protocols. Counseling sessions are intended to change behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and how you see and understand situations. These types of talk therapy include a variety of modalities. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aims to help you seek your own solutions to problems in treatment using systematic goal-oriented strategies.

Common goals of treatment

Each buprenorphine addiction treatment plan is goal based. The goals set in treatment programs serve to motivate you to move forward and help you achieve the following:

  • stop using the medication
  • remain buprenorphine-free
  • perform successfully without buprenorphine (in your daily obligations with the family, at work, in school, in society…)

Help a buprenorphine addict friend

When you have a friend who abuses buprenorphine, you can always encourage him or her to ask a professional help from psychotherapist, trained addiction counselor, or a trusted mentor. Other helpful resources that are anonymous and can provide advice are:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). This is a crisis hotline that addresses many mental health issues. The hotline is especially helpful when a person feels sad, hopeless, or suicidal. Family and friends who are concerned about a loved one or anyone interested in mental health treatment referrals can call this Lifeline. Callers are connected with a professional nearby who will talk about feelings or concerns related to life-issues, family and friends.

The Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) in the case of emergencies. This line is offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and is intended to refer callers to treatment facilities, support groups, and other local organizations that can provide help for their specific needs.

The role of brief interventions

The term “intervention” means talking to the person you’re concerned about. All interventions serve to motivate a person to take concrete steps to address the problem and lead them to the required help. It’s often recommended that brief interventions be personalized and presented in a non-judgmental manner. The duration of a brief intervention in primary care can last anywhere from 5 minutes of advising to 15-30 minutes of counselling.

Brief interventions are not intended to treat people with serious drug problems. Instead, brief interventions have a valuable impact in cases of problematic or risky substance use. These interventions are used as an encouragement to those with more serious dependence to accept more intensive treatment.

Interventions usually lead to treatment within the primary care setting, or may include a referral to a specialized drug treatment agency. The main goal of the intervention is to help the person understand that their substance use is putting them at risk. You may also set a goal to encourage a loved one to reduce or give up their substance use. For help on interventions, contact a professional interventionist or rehab clinic.

Self-help for buprenorphine addiction

Q: Can you deal with an addiction on your own?
A; Sometimes it is possible to self-treat for addiction.

Generally, this is not a common case nor an established rule. Why not? Mainly, because it requires training and understanding to safely quit opioid drugs like buprenorphine. For example, buprenorphine should be slowly tapered before stopping completely in order to prevent severe or intense buprenorphine withdrawal symptoms. This is why medical advice is required.

Furthermore, behavioral approaches are highly recommended for the treatment of buprenorphine addiction when combined with pharmacological approaches (Rx medicines).  It takes training, credentials, and certification in order to offer counseling effectively!

What kinds of therapy are needed? Behavioral treatments for buprenorphine usually consist of talk therapy, group therapy, and support groups. Psychotherapy is another professional approach that helps addicts identify the root cause of their drug use and the contributing factors. The intention of these types of discussions is to prevent further addictive behaviors.

Who can you contact?

When seeking information about rehabs, you can always call us at 1-877-941-4541. You can also ask local professionals for advice and recommendations. Seek consultation from:

  • An admission coordinator at a nearby hospital
  • A friend or family member with a medical background
  • A physician
  • A substance abuse counselor
  • A psychotherapist with experience in addiction counseling

Helping a buprenorphine addict questions

Do you still have questions about how you can help address possible buprenorphine addiction? Please post them in the comments section below. We will try answer all legitimate questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: SAMHSA: The facts about buprenorphine
Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence: Brief intervention for substance use
NIH: Screening for Drug Use in General Medical Settings
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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