Better Assessment of Opioid Abuse Recovery Progress May Be Possible

A study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine finds evidence that patients who successfully remain in recovery from dependence on prescription pain medications may show signs that the body's natural reward systems are normalizing. The authors term this process "physiological re-regulation" of disrupted brain and hormonal responses to pleasurable stimuli.

After drug withdrawal, many people with opioid dependence may experience heightened "rewards" or "pleasure" in response to drugs and related stimuli, but greatly reduced responses to naturally pleasurable stimuli such as good food or friendship. This dysregulation of the natural reward system may contribute to the high risk of relapse during recovery. But the research found that over time in residential treatment these response patterns become re-regulated, and that the return of the natural reward system may enhance the likelihood of remaining drug-free.

A news story about the findings, with link to the journal abstract, may be read here.

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