Opioid Rehabilitation Information For Women
The opioid epidemic continues to rage across the country. And as it does, it’s becoming more and more important for researchers to recognize the need for gender-specific approaches to treatment.
But what kinds of differences are there for men and women in treatment? How is addiction different between the sexes? And are there any particular concerns that women have that don’t apply to men?
Besides the gender differences involved, though, what else can women today expect from the opioid addiction recovery process?
These are all very valid questions for any woman seeking sobriety and release from her opioid addiction. And this comprehensive guide to opioid rehabilitation for women will answer all these and more.
Opioid Addiction & Treatment Differences for Women
Men and women process addictive substances differently. And similarly, they also tend to progress through and experience addiction differently.
For instance, according to NIDA, there are more men in treatment for addiction than women. However, women are actually more likely to seek out addiction treatment than men.
Women also tend to have a shorter history of using drugs like opioids than men. But women also tend to enter treatment with more severe medical, behavioral, psychological, and social problems. This is because women tend to develop a full-blown dependence sooner after first using than men do.
But there are other differences too. And knowing these differences and changing treatments to cater to them is important for ensuring recovery.
For women in particular, the opioid epidemic has risen especially quickly.
For instance, from 1999 to 2016, the number of overdoses involving opioids for men rose by around 321%. But for women, the same time period saw an increase of 507%!
But there are other indicators of how bad the problem has gotten too.
The incidences of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), for instance, have risen dramatically in the past several decades according to SAMHSA. This condition is essentially when the child is born addicted to opioids. And upon leaving the mother’s womb, they begin going through the uncomfortable (and deadly at this stage) process of withdrawal.
In 2000, about 1.2 out of every 1000 children born in hospitals had NAS. In 2012, it was 5.80 out of every 1000 – a nearly 4-fold increase in just 12 years.
Obviously, opioid addiction among women especially has risen to epidemic proportions.
For some women, the trick to ensuring a successful recovery is checking in to a gender-specific treatment program. These types of treatments are much more likely to both understand and cater to unique problems that women face during recovery. And thus, they often carry a higher success rate as well.
Because there are some very real differences between successfully treating women for opioid use disorders compared to men.
The contexts surrounding initiation, for instance, are quite different between men and women. One scientific review of multiple studies found that men tend to begin using due to peer influence or for experimentation.
But for women, their context of initiation was more likely to be related to sexual or interpersonal relationships instead. This history, then, can end up more intimately tying drug use among women to relationships compared to men. And that can mean destructive relationships are often more likely to be intertwined with substance abuse in women.
Studies have also shown that women tend to experience more intense cravings than men.
And finally, the predictors of relapse are also different among genders. For instance, “For males, these include living alone, positive emotional affect, and social pressures, whereas for females, relapse has been associated with living apart from one’s children, being depressed, having a stressful marriage, and using within the context of ‘romantic’ relationships.”
Knowing these differences, gender-specific treatment programs are much more able to prepare for and cater to the unique needs of women during recovery.
What Kinds of Opioid Addiction Recovery Programs Are There?
While it’s true that some people are able to stop using opioids on their own, the overwhelming majority of women will need professional treatment to get and stay clean.
A professional program provides the absolute best chance of equipping patients with the strategies and tools they need to ensure their long-term sobriety.
And in general, opioid addiction treatment programs fall into three different categories: rehabilitation, detoxification, and aftercare programs.
Opioid Addiction Detoxification
Detoxification is usually the very first stage of a professional treatment program. It deals exclusively with the initial stage of quitting when the body is forced to get used to functioning normally without the addictive opioids.
This adjustment period is typically accompanied by a range of uncomfortable and even deadly physical and mental symptoms known as withdrawals. And these withdrawals (especially when it comes to opioids like heroin) can often be so uncomfortable that many recovering addicts will turn back to substance abuse simply to get some form of relief.
However, these mental withdrawals can actually be just as torturous as physical ones when not treated appropriately. And in certain extreme cases, they can actually be even more life-threatening without proper care due to the risk of self-harm.
A professional detoxification program will help treat these symptoms and ensure that patients remain safe throughout the trying withdrawal process. They’ll also make sure that patients stay comfortable along the way, making it far less likely that they’ll relapse.
Opioid Addiction Rehabilitation
Opioid rehabilitation comes right after detoxification. And while detox is concerned primarily with the overcoming the body’s addiction, rehabilitation is all about tackling the mind’s addiction to opioids.
You see, addiction is actually a brain disorder. And as the National Institute on Drug Abuse puts it:
Brain imaging studies from people addicted to drugs show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control.
Reversing these changes or finding a way to compensate for them is the focus of rehabilitation. The end goal is to eliminate the compulsive drug-seeking and self-destructive behaviors common in addiction and replace them with healthier life strategies.
Professional programs use a combination of one-on-one counseling, group talk sessions, and behavioral therapies to give patients the tools they need to stay sober permanently.
There are a variety of rehab programs to choose from. And the three most common are inpatient, outpatient, and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs).
- Inpatient Rehabilitation (~28 Days) – Inpatient is typically considered the most extensive form of rehabilitation programs. This is when patients are required to actually stay in a treatment facility and usually aren’t allowed to leave for the duration. The more controlled environment of inpatient treatment makes it not only harder for patients to relapse, but also to focus more completely on their recovery without the distractions of day-to-day life.
- Outpatient Rehab (~3 Months) – Outpatient offers far more flexibility than inpatient. While inpatient requires recovering users to limit their access to the outside world (making it hard to attend work or school at the same time), outpatient treatment consists of evening and weekend treatment sessions instead of throughout the day. That way, patients can still fulfill daily obligations and while also being able to receive treatment.
- Intensive Outpatient Programs (~3 Months) – These programs combine the flexibility of outpatient with a higher level of treatment closer to that of inpatient. Treatment sessions occur in the evenings and on the weekends like outpatient. But sessions tend to be longer and occur more frequently throughout the week. It’s a great option for someone who is struggling with more than a mild opioid addiction but can’t afford the time or money required for an inpatient program.
Opioid Addiction Aftercare Programs
While detoxification and rehabilitation are considered the standard phases of recovery, the truth is that most (if not all) women going through recovery need programs that help keep them clean after rehab.
Part of the reason for this is because the transition from treatment to “normal life” can be harsh. And without a group of dedicated and enthusiastic people supporting you, the temptation to fall back into using soon after can be overwhelming.
That’s where aftercare comes in. These programs help keep sobriety at the forefront of your mind after inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs. They’re usually much more flexible too, so you can juggle life’s day-to-day obligations with your journey to sobriety.
- 12-Step Support Groups – One of the most common types of support groups that recovering opioid addicts attend after rehabilitation are 12-step groups. Alcoholics Anonymous was the original 12-step group founded in 1935. Given the program’s success, a number of offshoots were developed later, each focusing on a specific type of addiction. A few that apply to opioid addiction include Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Pills Anonymous (PA), and Heroin Anonymous (HA).
- 12-Step Alternatives – Not all support groups are 12-step groups. And in fact, some people feel that the 12-step approach simply isn’t right for their idea of recovery. There are quite a few alternatives to choose from for addictions in general, especially when it comes to alcoholism. For opioid addictions in particular, SMART Recovery is one of the best alternatives.
- Individual Counseling – One-on-one counseling is another aftercare option. This allows for highly individualized support that caters to the unique needs of a recovering opioid addict. For many, the source of an addiction can be confusing. And one-on-one counseling helps many addicts get to the bottom of why they started using and continued to do so.
- Intensive Outpatient Programs – IOPs can be and often are used as one of the best types of aftercare programs available. Part of what makes IOPs so perfect for aftercare is the fact that they’re professionally run and typically built on the same evidence-based principles used in rehabilitation programs. They also offer a more gradual “step down” from rehab into daily life, and that can often mean a better chance at long-term sobriety.
What To Expect During Opioid Addiction Recovery
Opioid addiction recovery can be a brutal process. First, this drug type in particular comes with an especially uncomfortable withdrawal process. Muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cold sweats – all can make it difficult and dangerous to push through withdrawal without proper medical guidance.
And on top of that, users also have to worry about PAWS, cravings, triggers, and how to best prevent relapse.
Below is a more detailed explanation of what the process of recovery is like and what to expect along the way.
The opioid withdrawal process is harsh. The physical symptoms are grueling. The mental ones are draining. And for many women, opioid withdrawal is a struggle to get through.
According to MedlinePlus, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
- Goose bumps
The exact withdrawal timeline will vary among individuals. However, most people can expect to go through opioid withdrawal for around 4 to 10 days.
Unlike other substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines, opioids do not have directly fatal withdrawals.
That being said, the opioid withdrawal process can bring on a number of serious complications, many of which can be deadly without proper treatment. These complications and their deadly results include:
- Malnutrition (seizures, shock, coma)
- Dehydration (hypothermia, respiratory tract infections, convulsions)
- Heart palpitations (heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure)
- Uncontrollable vomiting (aspiration, pneumonia, choking, acute respiratory failure)
- Mental disturbances (harm to others or self, suicide)
Without the right medical oversight, many of these complications can be incredibly dangerous. That’s why it’s always advisable to find a trusted professional program, especially during detoxification.
Not every woman’s withdrawal syndrome with opioids is going to be the same. Some may experience more severe symptoms; others may get through it with only moderate discomfort. Some may not begin feeling like their old selves for days. And for others, it could take weeks.
And some may have the misfortune of going through a condition known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, also known as PAWS. This is when many of the symptoms of withdrawal don’t go away for weeks, months, or even years.
This, as you can imagine, can be quite distressful for women who are trying to get clean and stay clean. And unfortunately, this can often lead to many people who experience it to relapse.
Like other withdrawal syndromes, PAWS is usually different for everyone. But according to SAMHSA, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Sleep difficulties
- Problems with short-term memory
- Persistent fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Alcohol or drug cravings
- Impaired executive control
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Dysphoria or depression
- Unexplained physical complaints
- Reduced interest in sex
There are a few things that an opioid treatment program can do to help patients get through the worst of PAWS without relapsing, including:
- Educating clients about PAWS and helping them develop realistic attitudes for recovery
- Celebrating each accomplishment
- Assessing for co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders
- Asking about and monitoring sleep problems
- Advising clients to be active
- Advising clients to be patient
- Prescribing specific medications to control lingering symptoms
- Encouraging clients to join mutual support groups
- Including interventions to help clients strengthen executive control functions
- Monitoring clients for symptoms during continuing care
While the initial stages of withdrawal are definitely some of the most taxing, most addicts will always go through difficulties later on as well. Cravings and triggers, for instance, can continue to affect former opioid addicts for years after quitting.
And without the right guidance and coaching on how to deal with these cravings and triggers, they can easily lead to a full-blown relapse.
- Cravings – As most people expect, the cravings throughout recovery can be intense. But what many people don’t realize is that cravings occur on both a physical and a mental level. And learning how to cope with these cravings or avoid their triggers all together is one of the most crucial skills needed to navigate recovery effectively. Professional programs help you do just that.
- Triggers – Triggers are dangerous parts of the recovery process because they’re often as unexpected as they are powerful. Triggers are any sort of stimulation that triggers opioid cravings in recovering users. They can be as complex as traveling to a certain location with a specific person. Or they can be as simple as a taste, a smell, or a song.
Triggers are dangerous because they launch recovering addicts into cravings that they often didn’t plan for. Even if a woman has been clean for weeks, months, or even years, she may still experience these triggers without warning. And sometimes, they can be so powerful that they lead right back into a full-blown relapse.
- Relapse – Unfortunately, relapse is common. According to NIDA, about 40-60% of addicts end up relapsing at some point. And for opioids, that number tends to be even higher.
This is especially important to plan ahead for because relapsing back into using opioids is particularly dangerous. That’s because tolerance to opioids drops incredibly quickly. As a result, someone who relapses on the same dosage that got them high just a week or two before could be exposing themselves to a now toxic level.
Partnering with the right program, then, is doubly important for opioid addicts.
How To Get The Most Out of Your Opioid Addiction Recovery
The single most important element of a woman’s recovery from opioid addiction is finding the right treatment programs.
The right treatment program connects you with strategies, medications, techniques, and tools that not only help make it easier to push through the most difficult stages of recovery but also set yourself up for success years and even decades afterward.
But finding the right Colorado opioid addiction treatment program can actually be tougher than most people might imagine. Today more than ever, there are so many different choices for treatment facilities, each of which might at first glance seem like a perfect fit.
However, you’ll want to be as certain as possible that the facility you do partner with is the right one. And that means doing a fair amount of research beforehand.
Below are a few characteristics to consider while researching and interviewing facilities.
One of the most important things to concentrate on is whether or not a facility caters to your needs. Because the more closely a program aligns with what you need to recover, the more likely your long-term sobriety will be.
For instance, many women who have struggled with opioid addiction have also gone through both physical and emotional trauma. Some may even suffer from PTSD. And that can make it hard to go through recovery with alongside other men who remind them of that trauma.
Finding facilities that offer gender-specific housing and recovery programs, then, can be one way to make it easier to transition into a sober lifestyle.
Family Therapy is one type of treatment you may also want to look out for since not all programs include it. The family unit is a powerful source of support during recovery. And for most opioid addicts, it’s probably also been jeopardized over the course of your addiction. Family therapy helps mend those broken bridges so you can build a strong and dedicated support system with the people you care about most.
Time is another aspect to consider. How long are the programs? When do treatment sessions happen? And can you leave the facility afterward or are you required to stay?
For women with moderate to severe opioid addictions, inpatient is likely going to be the better choice. But for busy mothers and/or career women with milder addictions, intensive outpatient programs might better fit their schedules.
Another point to consider is whether or not a facility offers opioid addiction medications like naltrexone or buprenorphine. These medications can help reduce the severity of cravings and even make relapses less destructive in the long run.
This one seems obvious. But sadly, knowing how to determine if a program actually works is difficult.
There are a few things to look at to help you understand the effectiveness of a program.
First, there are success rates. You’ll want to ask about how many patients go on to maintain sobriety after leaving the program. But you’ll also want to ask about what percentage of enrolled patients actually finish the program too.
And on top of that, try and get long-term statistics on the sobriety of program graduates as well. For instance, knowing how many graduates stayed sober 10 years versus 1 year after graduating is going to be far more valuable.
Second, ask about whether programs employ evidence-based treatments. Essentially, this term is used to describe practices that are backed up by real, hard science – not just guesses.
Recent reports have actually found that most treatment programs do not provide evidence-based treatments. And instead, their procedures and strategies are based on outdated methodologies that are rooted in little to no scientific proof.
If you’re going to check into treatment, you want to be sure you’re getting care that’s proven to work. A professional program doesn’t have to be a gamble.
This one is often overlooked. And it’s too bad. Because co-occurring disorders are not only incredibly common among addicts. But they also make it significantly harder for recovering addicts to stay clean if they go untreated.
The term “co-occurring disorder” is used to describe mental or mood disorders that occur alongside addiction. The most common are depression and anxiety, but other co-occurring disorders also include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia
According to NIDA, about half of people struggling with an addiction will also experience a mental illness in their life. And the reverse is also true too. About half the people with a mental illness will also struggle with an addiction.
Addicts, then, are about 2.5 times more likely to have a mental disorder than the rest of the population. And since women are more likely to struggle with mental illness than men, the number for females is even higher.
What makes co-occurring disorders so dangerous for recovery is that the symptoms of underlying mental illnesses can increase the risk of relapsing if they aren’t addressed. A woman struggling with depression, then, may end up successfully getting clean from her Vicodin addiction for a while. However, if the symptoms of her depression still remain, then she’ll likely be tempted to return to using again to help relieve these symptoms.
It’s a vicious cycle.
But by choosing a facility with co-occurring disorder expertise, you can rest assured that the full spectrum of your mental health will be treated during rehabilitation. And that can make staying clean permanently far more likely.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the most successful treatment programs will likely offer a variety of treatments rather than just relying on a single approach. Of the 13 Principles of Effective Treatment, there are two in particular that speak to this.
#2. No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
#4. Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.
With regards to #2, not everyone will respond to a single type of treatments. For instance, some individuals will be more successful with a focus on group therapy, while others will get the most out of one-on-one counseling. Offering a variety, then, ensures that an individual will have a better chance of benefiting from the treatment that works best for them.
And for #4, addiction isn’t just a physical problem. Instead, its negative impacts reach into nearly every aspect of an addict’s life – their social interactions, their relationships, their mental health, their financial health, their careers, the list goes on and on.
By incorporating therapies that address the multiple needs of the individual, not just the physical ones, they’ll be much more likely to get clean and stay clean.
The unfortunate reality of addiction recovery is that many people don’t get the help they need simply due to the costs of treatment.
In fact, a national survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that of 800,000 Americans who believed they actually needed treatment (just 4.5% of all addicts in the USA), about one third didn’t get help because of treatment costs.
That’s around 215 thousand Americans who didn’t get the help they needed simply because of the price of treatment.
As such, it’s critical to find a treatment program that fits your financial needs. First and foremost, be sure to verify your insurance coverage with a facility. Many insurance providers are now required by law to help cover addiction treatment costs. And that can significantly cut down on the final price.
On top of that, you can also reach out to individual facilities to learn more out their financing options. Some will offer payment plans, financing with interest, sliding scale prices, and even no-strings-attached grants. It just depends on the facility.
And last but not least, look for a program that has two very important kinds of proof of effectiveness.
First, you’ll want to take a look at past patient testimonials. What kinds of things are people saying about their time in the program? How successful was their recovery? What kinds of techniques and strategies for sobriety did they walk away with after the program was over?
It’s one thing to judge a program based on what they say they offer. But it’s another entirely to hear about it from the people that have actually experienced it firsthand.
And second, you’ll want to find a program that has been certified by trustworthy and preferably national/international agencies. Certifications act as stamps of approval for people looking for trustworthy treatment programs. And they’re one of the best ways to know that a program is effective and worth taking a closer look at.
Agencies like LegitScript, CARF International, and the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers are great places to start.
Women’s Recovery in Colorado: The Premier Choice for Opioid Addiction Recovery for Women
Today more than ever, opioid addiction is one of the top health concerns of Americans. And for women in particular, finding the specialized treatment required to overcome an opioid use disorder can be especially tough.
But thankfully, Women’s Recovery in Colorado is here to make the transition from addiction to recovery easier than ever.
Oftentimes, women in recovery need more care than traditional inpatient programs provide. And while 28 days in such facilities can be essential in getting clean, many opioid addicts will need to find an aftercare program that helps keep them sober, even in the face of intense cravings and unexpected triggers.
At Women’s Recovery, we provide extensive aftercare support for women suffering from alcoholism and/or drug addiction. We offer a range of services, including:
- Flexible, intensive outpatient treatment
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Case management services
- Trauma treatment
- Vivitrol services
- Co-occurring disorder specialization
- Housing services
We also use only evidence-based treatments that have been proven effective to treat addiction. And on top of that, we’re also proud to have one of the highest staff-to-patient ratios in the area – so you can be sure you’re getting the attention you deserve every step of the way.
If you’re a woman suffering from an opioid addiction in Colorado, you owe it to yourself to partner with a treatment facility that caters to your specific needs. It’s the only way to ensure the absolute best results, and to secure your sober, healthy, and productive future.