What Are My Choices for Opiate Addiction Recovery?

What Are My Choices for Opiate Addiction Recovery?

Choices for Opiate Addiction Recovery?

Treating opiate addiction requires physical and psychological interventions. Going through detox without getting counseling sets a person up for a dangerous relapse and essentially leaves him struggling with a brain disease without necessary support.

Research shows the best treatment for opiate addiction combines a physical detoxification period followed by goal-oriented psychological counseling. While some physicians and hospitals only offer medications designed to keep a person from taking opiates, this form of treatment ignores the reasons behind addiction. Giving a person a pill to treat addiction is like relying on pills for any other chronic disease. Without psychological support, attention to diet and exercise and disease education, sufferers of any chronic disease (addiction, diabetes, asthma) experience multiple relapses.[1]

Opiates, in particular, are both physically and psychologically addictive. This class of drugs contains either natural opium, from the seeds of the poppy plant, or synthetic opium. Opiate-based prescription pain relievers must be used exactly as prescribed to avoid addiction. In fact, some research shows chronic pain sufferers may receive more pain relief from other less-addictive options. Opiates are so addictive because it takes more and more of the drug for a person to achieve the same feeling as time goes on. Once a person takes larger doses of the drug, his brain expects the opiates and craves them in order to achieve any feelings of happiness or wellbeing.[2] [3]

First Things First

Knowing it’s time to seek help for addiction is a sign of motivation, a key factor in fighting the disease. Of course, addiction treatments work even for people who enter treatment under a court order or due to family pressure. The psychological counseling patients receive during treatment gives them insight into the reasons behind addiction. Counseling also gives a person tools for fighting cravings and strategies for managing each day. This type of professionally guided help is essential for attaining and maintaining long-term recovery. Furthermore, a medically supervised treatment program keeps a person safe during withdrawal and encourages realistic goal setting.[4]

Finding the Right Treatment Program

A variety of opiate addiction treatment programs exist, including inpatient and outpatient programs. An inpatient program is appropriate for a severe addiction, for people without a good support system at home or for someone with multiple addictions or a history of relapse. Inpatient treatment at a residential facility removes a person from outside distractions and allows complete focus on recovery. Residential patients receive 24-hour supervision, freeing them from the desire to use when alone, bored or stressed, temptations of friends who encourage drug use and ready access to drugs. Inpatient treatment costs more than outpatient, but many insurance plans cover this care for people with multiple relapse episodes and severe addictions.[5]

Outpatient treatment programs allow patients to live at home and meet with a counselor or therapist a few times per week, depending on individual needs. Outpatient treatment gives a person the ability to live at home and take care of responsibilities, such as childcare and work. It also is less expensive than inpatient programs.5

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Both inpatient and outpatient programs may include some form of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This treatment uses drugs that alleviate opiate cravings, including medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or extended-release injectable naltrexone. A person may need MAT as part of the detoxification process to manage serious withdrawal symptoms or may need to use the medications longer term along with therapy to more effectively manage cravings. The key to MAT is to make it individual. Some people want to live in recovery without any drugs, which may have undesirable side effects. For others, MAT is the difference between success and failure.5

What Should Treatment Look Like?

An evidence-based program consists of the following three components:

Detoxification: Detox is essential for recovery. The detox process flushes a patient’s system of toxins and impurities, such as opiates. The process includes a range of withdrawal symptoms usually treated with medications, such as clonidine, or other medications designed to taper a person off opiates gradually (methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone).[6]

Counseling and therapy: An addiction is not just a physical problem; it’s a brain disease with behavioral elements. Individual and group counseling along with evidence-based therapy sessions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, help someone identify the core issues related to addiction and learn to deal with the consequences of the disease. Therapy sessions also give a person coping skills for managing cravings and feelings of stress.5

Aftercare: Follow-up care is essential for maintaining sobriety once a person leaves treatment. Aftercare offers support and accountability and increases the chance for long-term recovery.

When looking for a treatment center, it is essential to find a program that addresses individual needs, including help finding support once treatment ends. While there are standard treatments that work for each person; everyone experiences addiction in a unique way. Support groups offer encouragement and many perspectives on tips that work. It can be a group like Narcotics Anonymous or a more informal group organized by a treatment center.5

Opiate Recovery Help

If you are struggling with opiate addiction and are ready to get help, call our toll-free helpline today. Finding a treatment program and getting started may seem overwhelming, but our admissions coordinators help you wade through the treatment options. We help you complete the initial paperwork and answer any insurance questions you might have. We are available 24 hours a day to answer questions and offer support. Remember that you are not alone. Call now.


[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved June 2, 2016 from http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders.

[2] Nelson, Lewis S.; Perrone, Jeanmarie. (2012). Curbing the Opioid Epidemic in the United States. The Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). Journal of the American Medical Association. Received June 2, 2016 from http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1273026.

[3] McNicholas, Laura, et. al. (2004). Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Clinical Guidelines for the Use of Buprenorphine in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) 40. Retrieved June 2, 2016 from https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/buprenorphine.

[4] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). DrugFacts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved June 2, 2016 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction.

[5] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved June 2, 2016 from http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders.

[6] Nicholls, Lance; Brago, Lisa and Ruetsch, Charles. (2010).  Opioid Dependence Treatment and Guidelines. Supplement to Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy. Retrieved June 2, 2016 from http://www.amcp.org/data/jmcp/S14-S21.pdf.

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