Florida has a problem with drug abuse. State lawmakers have also made a deep commitment to making life better within the state. Consider these two statistics from the Trust for America’s Health:

  1. Florida has the 11th highest drug overdose death rate in the United States.
  2. Florida is utilizing 7 of 10 best practices to curb prescription drug use.

These two statistics, when put together, show that Florida lawmakers know there’s a drug use problem in the state. The statistics also demonstrate a real commitment on behalf of legislators to making things better.

That could be good news for people living in Florida, but each person who has an addiction also needs to pitch in. That means people who have addictions need to get treatment.

For people addicted to opiates, treatment begins with medical detox. There are plenty of resources available in Florida that can help people get the detox help they need.

Detox: The First Step Toward Healing

Opiates are drugs that contain, or are synthesized from, opium. Morphine and heroin are examples of opiates. Opioids are synthetic versions of opiates, made in a laboratory. Examples of opioids include Vicodin and OxyContin.

Both opiates and opioids latch onto receptors located within the brain and body. When these drug molecules are attached to their receptors, they trigger a series of reactions that result in a massive release of dopamine into the brain. That dopamine is associated with pleasure and relaxation; it’s the “rush” users talk about when they take these drugs.

People with a long-standing opioid habit develop persistent changes that stick with them even when the high of a hit has worn off. Their bodies have become accustomed to and primed for the presence of drugs, and when those drugs are not available, a sense of sickness can set in.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), signs of opioid withdrawal can include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle spasm
  • Stomach cramps
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Goosebumps
  • Runny eyes
  • Nausea

These symptoms can begin minutes after the last dose of drugs, and they can increase in severity over time. People in the midst of withdrawal may also have intense cravings for drugs that are hard to ignore. The symptoms can cause so much discomfort, NIDA says, that people simply return to drugs rather than endure withdrawal.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can also be life-threatening. People with acute nausea, sweating, and vomiting can become dehydrated very quickly. Dehydration can lead to kidney damage, and that can cause loss of life.

Moving away from acute intoxication is a vital part of the healing process. People must get sober first before they can stay sober. But if the process is difficult or dangerous, people might avoid this step. Medications can help.

Treatment for Opioid Detox

The American Society of Addiction Medicine reports that using medications is preferable in medical detox, as medication significantly reduces drug abuse rates. In outpatient settings, where patients can simply walk out and buy the drugs they want, medications give them the strength to stay sober.

Those medications are often provided in a tapering dose. Doctors perform tests and interviews at the beginning of the detox process to understand just how much of a substance the person is accustomed to taking, and they use that information to come up with the proper dose of medications to provide as therapy. The goal is not to help people feel high. The goal is to help people remain calm and comfortable.

In a traditional detox program, medications are offered on a tapering dose to people in need. Each day, the person gets a smaller and smaller dose of drugs until the point at which the person is taking no drugs at all. That tapering medication is provided in concert with therapy, which can help people to understand why they began to take drugs.

A 13-day taper of the medication buprenorphine was provided to some patients with an opioid addiction. Significantly more people who had the medication were able to complete the programs, whether they were enrolled in inpatient or outpatient programs. Those who did not get the medication were much less likely to complete the programs.

Studies like this demonstrate just how much medications can help someone to transition from intoxication to sobriety. Medications help to smooth the adjustment, as they reduce the physical symptoms people may feel. But it’s important to remember that people may still feel slightly uncomfortable in detox.

The Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale, or COWS, is a tool medical teams use to assess how well detox is progressing. NIDA reports that COWS assesses:

  • Resting pulse rate
  • Nausea and/or GI upset
  • Sweating
  • Tremor
  • Restlessness
  • Yawning
  • Pupil size
  • Anxiety
  • Aching bones or joints
  • Goosebumps
  • Runny nose

Each symptom is given a score of severity, and the total score is assessed at the end. The higher the score, the more likely it is that the person is experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

In a medical detox program, doctors may use this tool or something similar to determine how well the medication therapy is going. People who seem comfortable might be ready for a smaller dose. People who are not comfortable may need to stay at their current dose level.

Some people have so much damage from their drug use that their COWS scores remain high throughout detox. With each taper, they feel ill again. People like this may be candidates for ongoing medication therapy. Doctors can provide the same medications they use during detox to help people stay in therapy without relapse. Since the drugs used in detox do not cause a high when used appropriately, they can be a good maintenance drug choice for people who simply cannot taper without feeling terrible.

Not all treatment programs offer ongoing medical care. For some, the treatment program ends only with sobriety. Those who think they will need this kind of ongoing care should make sure it’s available before they enroll. This is something people can discuss during the research portion of their rehab journey, and they can ask about it again when they’re moving away from detox and into a treatment program.

Where to Find Help in Florida

Medical detox is a vital part of recovery for people addicted to opiates and opioids. There are many programs in Florida that can help people to get through this vital stage of treatment.

The main addiction-treatment regulatory body in Florida is the Florida Department of Children and Families. This organization offers a robust online tool people can use to find certified programs within the county in which they live. Every entity that has been licensed by the department will appear on this list, and those listings are updated each month.

It’s important to note that both public and private organizations will appear on this list. Organizations aren’t ranked by quality. Showing up here simply means the organization has met the minimum standards for licensure.

In addition, issues of price do not appear on this list. People looking for low-cost options for care may want to contact nonprofit addiction treatment organizations or facilities that offer sliding-scale fees. The best way to find that very specific type of help is to contact the Florida Department of Health. The operators here can help people to connect with programs they can afford and trust.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also keeps a list of addiction treatment facilities. Results can be sorted by treatment type, by location, and more. But the results can be a little overwhelming.

As mentioned, low-cost or nonprofit addiction treatment facilities might seem like the best option, but it can be difficult to find one that offers vital detox services. Programs that come at a low cost are popular, and that means they come with long waiting lists.

That means people who try to access them may need to keep waiting for days or even weeks to get the help they need, and meanwhile, their addictions just get stronger.

Private programs can scale up quickly to meet client demand, which means they’re often more likely to accept clients as soon as they call. They may be able to provide the help people need when they need it without long wait times.

In addition, state agencies may not provide the in-depth help people need to enroll. In a study published in the journal Health Affairs, researchers found that only one state agency for addiction treatment in three offered enrollment assistance. This means people who don’t quite understand how to take advantage of a program may not get the help they need from a state agency.

Private agencies are different. Staffers there are trained to help people get enrolled in care, and there are people who spend all day every day doing just that. People who need a little more help to get enrolled in a program might appreciate this help.

What Should Families Look For?

Issues of cost are often top of mind for families looking for help with an addiction issue, but there’s more to pay attention to. Families must also pay close attention to the types of services the detox facility offers. They should understand how medications are given (if any), and they should find out how doses are determined.

An analysis of the addiction treatment industry by NBC News advises families to ensure that there is a medical director on staff. Families should also ask about certifications and licenses. Medical detox is a serious procedure, and it’s important to ensure that the person in need will be working with a medical professional who is qualified to offer help.

If the program is offered on an outpatient basis, it’s vital to ensure that the person can get to and from treatment each day. That might mean that the treatment program should be located next to a bus line or in the person’s neighborhood. Long commutes or difficult travel arrangements could tempt the person to drop out of care. It’s important to make care as easy as possible.

It’s also important to understand how the treatment team will help the person transition to the next level of care. Medical detox is not considered a stand-alone form of addiction treatment. People need to move on to therapy and other behavioral health solutions so they can learn how to change their behaviors for good.

A structured program will have a handoff that allows the person to move to that next stage of care smoothly without running the risk of dropping out of care entirely. Families can ask about how this transition is accomplished, just so they’ll be sure the person has everything that’s required for success.

The most important thing to know about Florida rehab is that it can save a life. The sooner families take advantage, the better. In a program like this, real healing can begin.

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