Addiction Medicine


What makes opioid drugs addictive?

As often as not, Americans with chronic pain become addicted to opioids through legitimate, prescribed medication. With regular, repeated use, pain medications can alter how your brain cells function, leading to your body building up a tolerance that requires ever-larger doses of the drug to continue its effectiveness and stave off symptoms of withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms happen when your body gets denied a substance it has developed an addiction to. These symptoms often include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Joint pain
  • Tremors
  • Chills and sweats
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

Occasionally, addicted patients might turn to heroin to treat their pain and avoid withdrawal symptoms, if they cannot procure enough prescription opioids.

How do you treat addiction?

Dr. Ngo utilizes a number of effective addiction treatments. These medications can help you alleviate your withdrawal symptoms, managing your body’s physical dependence on opioids while you learn to control the psychological parts of your addiction.

What happens during treatment?

Treatment is divided into three phases:

Stabilization phase

Part one of the treatment processes is comprised of patient intake and stabilization.  At your initial appointment, you may spend over two hours in Dr. Ngo’s office.

In order to start treatment, you must be in the early stages of withdrawal for your treatment medication to have the desired effect.

The medication works by driving opioids out of your brain’s chemical receptors and occupying their places. If you still have opioids in your body, the first dose may not be enough to clear out these receptors and protect them. In this case, you begin to suffer from severe symptoms of withdrawal, and the treatment might seem like it’s failing.

If you’ve already entered the start of withdrawal symptoms, however, then your opioid receptors will be empty, and the treatment medications are able to occupy them easily, protecting you from withdrawal symptoms.

You’re closely examined on your first visit, with following appointments at least once a week. This continues until your condition and medicine dosage have stabilized, at which point you’re ready to proceed to your treatment’s general maintenance phase.

General maintenance phase

Once your medication doses stabilize, you enter the general maintenance phase of your physician-supervised recovery program. This phase is the longest phase, and during it, you may begin to feel both physically and psychologically normal again.

You have fewer appointments with Dr. Ngo during this phase, instead focusing on addressing the psychological pieces of your addiction. Once you begin to recover psychologically as well as physically, you then move into the tapering phase of treatment.

Tapering phase

The doses of your medication are slowly reduced during the tapering phase, with the goal of freeing you from all physical and psychological dependence on drugs. This phase may last from 18-24 months, during which time Dr. Ngo gradually tapers off your prescription at the rate that’s right for you. Once you no longer need prescription medication, you’re officially discharged from treatment.

Smart Medicine SF
468 Tehama St., Suite A

San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415-598-7633
Fax: 415-872-0561
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