Compare Opioid Addiction Treatment Options

Opioid addiction, or opioid use disorder, is a national epidemic, affecting more than 2.1 million people in the United States. Although it can be difficult to misusing opioids on your own, opioid addiction treatment is available to help you recover and live a substance-free life.1,2

In this article:

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a type of drug sometimes referred to as narcotics. There are prescription opioids and illicit opioids, like heroin and street fentanyl manufactured in labs.3 Examples of opioids that your doctor may prescribe you include:

These medications are pain killers. Your doctor might prescribe these after an injury, surgery, or to manage a chronic pain, such as that caused by cancer.3

Even though these medications are prescribed, they can still be misused. You are misusing a prescription medication if you use it to get high, take someone else’s prescription, or are taking it in a different way than your doctor advised.4

You are at greater risk of developing an opioid addiction when you misuse prescription painkillers, and using illegal opioids like heroin can lead to the rapid development of addiction as well.5,6

Why is it Important to Get Opioid Addiction Treatment?

Opioid addiction is a mental health condition that can have a devastating impact on your health and life. Effects of opioid misuse include:4

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Increased risk of HIV and hepatitis

Slowed breathing, particularly during an opioid overdose, can cause hypoxia, which occurs when the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen. It can cause a myriad of neurological and psychological consequences, including brain damage and coma.4

Aside from health consequences, a key feature of opioid addiction is continuing to use despite negative consequences in various facets of your life.7 Opioid addiction can negatively impact your ability to fulfill work or school obligations, function in relationships, and can lead to dangerous decisions, such as driving under the influence.

Opioid addiction treatment can help improve functioning, repair relationships, and prevent psychological or medical issues.

Treatment Can Prevent Opioid Overdose

Opioid misuse is particularly dangerous because of the high risk of overdose.8 People who misuse opioids regularly develop a tolerance, which means they need larger doses of opioids to experience the desired effects. As their doses increase, they run the risk of taking a toxic amount of the drug which the body cannot process, leading to a potentially fatal overdose.

Though naloxone (Narcan) can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and save lives, the best way to avoid an opioid overdose and prevent other serious health consequences is to quit using opioids. Though this may be challenging to do on your own, the good news is that you don’t have to.

Opioid addiction treatment programs can provide you with the foundation for lifelong recovery through interventions like group counseling, individual therapy, and family therapy.

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What are the Types of Treatment for Opioid Misuse?

While treatment for opioid misuse is similar to other types of addiction treatment, there are unique considerations to treating opioid addiction. Managing withdrawal symptoms is important to prevent relapse and overdose.1 Treatment providers can use different treatment approaches during the treatment process, depending on the patient’s needs, medical and psychological history, and more.3

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) includes a combination of opioid addiction medication and counseling in order to provide comprehensive care for opioid misuse.2 Opioid addiction treatment medications commonly used in MAT include:10

  • Buprenorphine: This partial opioid agonist reduces opioid cravings mitigates withdrawal symptoms without causing a euphoric rush. It also has a ceiling effect, which means the opioid effects plateau at moderate doses, reducing the risk of overdose.
  • Methadone: This long-acting, full opioid agonist lessens opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms without causing an intense high.
  • Naltrexone: This opioid antagonist blocks the euphoric feelings that opioid users experience.
  • Suboxone: This combination medication includes buprenorphine and naloxone, an opioid antagonist. The addition of the naloxone discourages misuse because if someone injects Suboxone, they will go into immediate withdrawal, which is uncomfortable and distressing.

Only certified methadone clinics can dispense methadone, and typically, you have to go there every day to receive your methadone treatment while being monitored. Over time, if you show that you are able to comply with treatment, then you may be given some methadone doses to take home.

Meanwhile, buprenorphine can be prescribed by buprenorphine doctors and can be taken home to take each day.
Regardless of which medication you take, MAT is shown to be most effective when combined with traditional treatment methods, such as addiction therapy.11

To receive MAT, you must be working with a therapist to treat unresolved issues and emotions that contributed to the development of an opioid addiction. These medications can be taken for years if supervised by a healthcare provider.3

Addiction Counseling

Addiction counseling, which is available at an outpatient or inpatient program, can help you in a few different ways during the recovery process. Counseling for opioid misuse can include:3

  • Changing beliefs and behaviors related to drug use
  • Developing healthy life skills
  • Staying compliant with other aspects of treatment, such as medication

Different counseling modalities tend to be used and are considered most effective. These include:1,3

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a treatment approach that aims to help you change your behaviors by changing the way you think and feel. CBT also can help you identify and use coping skills, which can help you tolerate opioid cravings and urges to use. A combination of CBT and medication-assisted treatment are considered to be the most effective treatment approach.
  • Motivation Enhancement Therapy: This technique helps you build up and maintain your motivation for recovery throughout the treatment process.
  • Group counseling: Group counseling is an opportunity to receive and give support and feedback to your peers. Group therapy is unique because you have the opportunity to build relationships with and learn from people who are in a similar situation as you are.
  • Family counseling: Family counseling can be helpful during opioid addiction treatment because it gives you and your family members the chance to build better relationships. Relationships can influence recovery in a big way, so improved relationships can make the recovery process easier.

Inpatient Opioid Addiction Treatment

If you have a severe opioid addiction, an inpatient opioid addiction treatment program may be beneficial for you. You receive 24/7 care in a highly-structured and peaceful setting away from your everyday using environment so you can focus solely on your recovery. After an intake assessment, your treatment team creates an individualized treatment plan tailored to meet your unique needs. Your treatment plan will consist of a combination of many therapies and therapeutic activities, such as:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Support groups
  • Meditation or yoga
  • Creative arts therapy
  • Recreation therapy
  • Drug education classes
  • Life skills classes
  • Opioid addiction treatment medications
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Treatment for Co-Occurring Conditions

Opioid addiction commonly co-occurs with other mental health disorders or medical conditions. These conditions are often referred to as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses.

Some common co-occurring conditions for people with opioid use disorder include:12

  • Anxiety or panic disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Hepatitis C

If you know that you have a co-occurring disorder or medical condition that requires treatment, then you’ll want to find a dual diagnosis program that has experience and expertise related to your specific needs. Without comprehensive, integrated care for both your opioid addiction and co-occurring disorder, it may be more challenging to make a full recovery.

For example, someone might have started using opioids as a way to manage untreated PTSD. For this person, treating PTSD is an important part of relapse prevention.

Other Opioid Treatment Services

Opioid addiction treatment programs might also offer additional recovery services. Some of these services might be offered in-house, or you might be given referrals. Some examples of other related support services include:3

  • Spiritual or faith-based groups
  • HIV testing and hepatitis screening
  • Case or care management
  • Employment or education supports
  • Organizations that help with housing or transportation

What if I’m Pregnant and Using Opioids?

If you are pregnant and misusing opioids like heroin, fentanyl, or oxycodone, recovery is possible. Opioid misuse can affect a fetus’ development and health and may lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition in which the baby is born dependent on opioids and exhibits withdrawal symptoms.4

However, people who are pregnant are candidates for medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Taking methadone or buprenorphine in a controlled setting while pregnant is much safer than misusing opioids. These medications, when combined with prenatal care and opioid addiction treatment, can improve birth outcomes.4

Find an Opioid Addiction Treatment Program

No matter who you are, opioid addiction treatment can help you recover. It’s never too late or too early to seek out evidence-based treatment through an inpatient or outpatient program. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and the right rehab for you depends on your preferences, priorities, financial situation, insurance, and more.

Comparing opioid rehabs can be overwhelming, but we are here to help. Give our confidential helpline a call at 800-994-1867Who Answers? to speak to a caring and compassionate rehab support specialist.


  1. Dydyk AM, Jain NK, Gupta M. Opioid Use Disorder. [Updated 2021 Jul 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Drug Overdose.
  3. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Opioid Misuse and Addiction Treatment.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Prescription Opioids DrugFacts.
  5. National Library of Medicine. (2021). Opioid Misuse and Addiction.
  6. The United States Department of Justice. (2022). Opioid Facts.
  7. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Substance-related disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (pp. 483). American Psychiatric Publishing.
  8. S Department of Health and Human Services. (2021). Opioid Crisis Statistics.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Data Overview.
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions.
  11. National Institutes of Health. (2016). Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction.
  12. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Co-Occurring Disorders and Other Health Conditions.
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