We’re excited to be introducing our new Medication Supported Recovery (MSR) program at Ashley! MSR can help overcome opioid dependency by improving recovery outcomes, reducing withdrawal symptoms during the detoxification period, reducing cravings, and making the entire treatment and recovery process much more palatable for patients. Let’s take a closer look at what MSR is and how it can improve the recovery journey.
What is Medication Supported Recovery?
MSR is the technique of using medication to help people develop a good program of recovery. When we first use a substance, it fills receptors in our brains, releasing a series of chemical reactions that cause a feeling of euphoria. A chemical dependency occurs when our body no longer feels “normal” without the substance. When we are dependent on a substance and do not use that substance, the receptors in our brain are no longer filled by the chemical that was causing euphoria, and we start to experience a series of negative symptoms. This is the process called “withdrawal” that everyone in recovery dreads. In addition to withdrawal, we also can experience cravings, or a hunger, for the substance, which is often the cause of reoccurrence of use. Reducing withdrawal symptoms and decreasing cravings are two of the most important effects of MSR.
What Options Are offered in MSR?
We feel that recovery works best when the patient is encouraged and empowered to lead their own journey. As such, we offer three options, based on the need and personal preference of the patients.
Option 1. Naltrexone
Naltrexone isn’t an opioid, but rather blocks opioid receptors. It comes in a long acting injectable form, Vivitrol, and an oral form, Revia. By blocking opioid receptors, it can reduce the body’s cravings for opioids and/or alcohol. It will also block the effects of other opioids if used. Unlike other options, naltrexone doesn’t create any euphoric “high” or alter the state of mind of the user. It’s meant to block the need for opioids and/or alcohol, not mimic or replace them. Because they are not opioids themselves, discontinuing these drugs doesn’t trigger withdrawal symptoms.
Option 2. Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine is a synthetic opioid with a staggering success rate in addiction recovery trials. Essentially, it has properties of an opioid and an opioid blocker. It can be used as an intermediary to reduce withdrawal symptoms during detoxification or can be continued as a part of treatment. Because this does have some aspects of an opioid, withdrawal symptoms can be expected after discontinuing use, but they are potentially much less severe than when disengaging from a more powerful drug like heroin or fentanyl. Buprenorhpine is a mind-altering substance and can cause some of the same effects as typical opioid, but the risks of serious side-effects, such as respiratory depression or overdose, are greatly reduced. Overall, this method has seen a success rate of about 40-50% in treatments over 3 to 6 months.
Option 3. Cold-Turkey
We rarely recommend discontinuing the use of opioids in the context of opioid use disorder without medical guidance and support. While some people have had success with this method throughout history, the vast majority of people find themselves returning to misuse or failing to persevere through the withdrawal symptoms. Nonetheless, if this is the preferred method for you, we have options available, such as specific therapies and other programs to encourage the recovery process and provide you with the tools for a lifelong recovery.
Overview for Medication Supported Recovery
Medication is often an integral part of treatment for any disorder, and this includes substance use disorder. MSR is just that; treatment of substance use disorder with the goal of helping people develop a good program of recovery. The numbers speak for themselves, and we are happy to implement any program that can help our community recover from addiction.