Before knowing what research studies have found on what HBOT did to those undergoing rehabilitation or treatment for opioid addiction, let’s understand what opioid is and how its addiction is treated.
What is Opioid?
Opioid is a chemical naturally found in the opium poppy plant. The chemical blocks pain signals from reaching the brain and hence is used as a pain killer in a variety of prescription drugs and illegal drugs. In addition to controlling the pain, opioids can make people feel relaxed, happy and high and can become addictive. Side effects of continued opioid usage include nausea, confusion, drowsiness etc.
How is Opioid addiction treated?
A body that got used to consumption of any drug cannot tolerate the sudden abstinence from it and when done, it starts showing a variety of unbearable symptoms. For that reason, treatment from addiction includes gradual reduction of the drug on a daily or weekly basis until the consumption comes to zero (including other rehabilitation activities) or substituting the drugs with similar but less harmful ones and then reducing their usage too with time.
When treating opioid addiction, a chemical called methadone is used in varying quantities depending on the individual. Gradually with time, the amount of methadone is reduced and doctors observe how well the body is able to manage pain and other withdrawal symptoms. The dark side is, methadone is also an opioid and the person must be treated until he/she comes out of methadone as well.
How can HBOT help in treating opioid addiction?
From the Journal of Addictions Nursing
The study was conducted on 31 patients. After five consecutive HBOT sessions where each session lasted for 90 minutes under 2.0 ATA, here is what the study has found:
- Participants who underwent all 5 sessions were able to withstand the withdrawal of methadone up to 4.3mg whereas the control group (those who didn’t undergo HBOT procedure) were able to withstand the withdrawal of only 0.25mg.
- The participants group was able to tolerate the pain and other withdrawal symptoms much better than the control group.
- Researchers noted that the opioid symptoms were reduced just after day 1 of HBOT by twice as much compared with the control group.
Here is what the study concluded:
The evidence that HBOT is an acceptable, feasible adjunct warrants future trials to determine more conclusively effects on withdrawal symptoms associated with methadone dose taper.
Here are the results from a different study conducted by Pain Management Nursing:
- 8 adults participated in 2 HBOT sessions. Each session lasted for about 90 minutes under 2.0 ATA and 100% oxygen. (Let’s call them Group A participants)
- Another 8 adults were placed in a different group who were provided only with 21% oxygen under 1.3 ATA. (Group B participants)
- Group A patients were seen to very well tolerate the pain intensity and drug craving after two HBOT sessions compared to nearly no difference in those of Group B.
Here is what the researchers from Pain Management Nursing concluded:
These pilot results provide evidence to support a fully powered study of HBOT as a potential treatment adjunct for adults receiving methadone for opioid use disorder.