How is Opioid Addiction Treated?

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Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers like oxycodone or hydrocodone, heroin, and fentanyl. Opioid treatment for addiction is available in cases where an individual is struggling with discontinuing use of the substance.

Tolerance and dependence on opioids forms rapidly, frequently leading to addiction (opioid use disorder). Although opioid use disorder is incurable, evidence-based treatments for opioid addiction typically produce positive outcomes.

Discover how you can get help with opioid addiction and learn about the different types of treatment for opioid addiction so you can move from active addiction into ongoing recovery.

Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

Addiction to opioids or opiates can involve any of the following substances:

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Opium
  • Methadone

The signs and symptoms of opioid addiction differ from person to person, and according to the specific substance. Some indicators might be detectable soon after the initiation of opioid use. Other symptoms may not manifest for many months.

Early Signs

From the onset of opioid use, any of the following signs may be visible:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced libido
  • Weight loss
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Impaired coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lowered personal hygiene standards
  • Reduction in fitness levels and activity
  • Isolating behaviors

If you notice the presentation of any of those symptoms in a loved one using opioid painkillers, you should monitor for the signs of a developing opioid addiction. Like all addictions, opioid use disorder is a chronic, relapsing, and incurable brain condition. Fortunately, opioid addiction responds favorably to MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and psychotherapy.

Common Addiction Symptoms to Look For

Opioid addiction is clinically described as opioid use disorder, sometimes abbreviated to OUD. OUD is a diagnosis applied to addiction to either opioids (prescription opioid painkillers) or opiates (natural opioids like morphine and codeine).

Opioid use disorder is diagnosed according to the number of symptoms listed in DSM-5-TR that present. DSM5-TR is the most current edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

These are the DSM symptoms of opioid addiction:

  1. Tolerance forming so that you need more opioids to deliver the same effects.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms presenting in the absence of opioids.
  3. Taking more opioids than intended or using opioids for longer than planned.
  4. Experiencing powerful cravings for opioids.
  5. Spending lots of time using opioids and recovering from the effects.
  6. Trying but failing to moderate or discontinue the use of opioids.
  7. Spending less doing things you once enjoyed due to opioid use.
  8. Abusing opioids in potentially dangerous situations.
  9. Ongoing opioid abuse despite opioid abuse triggering problems in your relationships.
  10. Continuing to use opioids even though it is causing or worsening a physical or psychological health condition.
  11. Failing to meet personal and professional commitments due to opioid abuse.

What is the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder, then?

What is The Best Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder?

MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is not a cure for addiction, but rather a useful tool for initiating and maintaining recovery.

Opiate treatment medications work in one of two ways:

  1. Some medications used for the treatment of opioid use disorder bind to the brain’s natural opioid receptors, activating these receptors, although not as intensely as they are activated by opioids.
  2. Other FDA-approved opioid treatment medications block the opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the rewarding effects.

MAT is always most effective when combined with counseling and behavioral therapies like CBT or DBT. Integrated treatment generally improves outcomes.

The three medications used for the MAT of opioid use disorder are approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). These programs are evidence-based. Research shows that MAT delivered in combination with supplementary therapies is an opiate dependence treatment that can also treat opioid addiction, improve treatment retention, and reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Medication-assisted treatment is also proven effective for reducing the need for inpatient detoxification in those addicted to both prescription opioids and heroin.

These are the research-based benefits of MAT:

  • Improving survival rates.
  • Increasing treatment retention rates.
  • Reducing the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
  • Minimizing the use of illegal opiates.
  • Boosting chances of finding and maintaining employment.
  • Reducing criminal activity among those with opioid use disorder.

Rehab for Opioids

How is opioid addiction treated at rehab, then?

You must first choose from the following delivery methods:

  1. Inpatient treatment for opioid addiction
  2. Outpatient treatment for opioid addiction

At an inpatient rehab, also known as residential rehab, you will remain at a treatment center for 30 to 90 days or more while engaging in intensive opioid treatment.

Outpatient treatment involves attending weekday therapy sessions at an opioid rehab center. Between sessions, you will return home or to a sober living home. Most rehabs also offer more intensive outpatient programs. An IOP (intensive outpatient program) or a PHP (partial hospitalization program) offers more structure and support than traditional outpatient programs.

Studies suggest that most mild or moderate opioid addictions respond just as well to intensive outpatient treatment as residential rehab.

Regardless of the level of treatment intensity, rehab for opioid addiction typically begins with a supervised medical detox. After detoxing, you will engage with a personalized array of treatments that may include:

  • MAT
  • Psychotherapy
  • Counseling (individual and group)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

The best opioid addiction treatment programs also include aftercare to maximize the chances of sustained recovery without relapse.

Is There a Cure for Opioid Addiction?

There is currently no cure for opioid addiction, but opioid use disorder is treatable with effective therapies and the appropriate level of support. Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that can be managed with long-term treatment and lifestyle changes.

There are several evidence-based treatments for opioid addiction, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and behavioral therapies. MAT combines medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone with counseling and behavioral therapies to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Behavioral therapies like CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy ) and CM (contingency management) can help those with opioid addictions to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that may contribute to their addiction.

Additionally, peer support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and SMART Recovery can provide social support and encouragement for many people transitioning from active addiction into ongoing recovery.

What is The Opioid Addiction Treatment Process?

There are many different ways to treat opioid addiction. Regardless of what is used to treat opioid addiction, the treatment process typically involves the following steps:

  • Assessment: A comprehensive evaluation is conducted to determine the severity of your addiction, your medical and psychiatric history, and any other factors that may impact opioid treatment options.
  • Detoxification: This is the process of removing opioids from your body and managing withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification may involve the use of medications like methadone or buprenorphine, as well as continuous medical monitoring.
  • MAT: MAT involves the use of medications combined with behavioral therapies to address the underlying causes of addiction and help you develop coping skills.
  • Behavioral therapies: Various behavioral therapies can be effective in treating opioid addiction, including CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), CM (contingency management), and MET (motivational enhancement therapy). These therapies help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to addiction.
  • Support groups: Support groups can provide you with social support and peer accountability during your recovery from opioid addiction.
  • Maintenance: Maintenance involves ongoing treatment to help individuals stay in recovery and avoid relapse. This may include continued use of medication, therapy, and support groups.

The opioid addiction treatment process is often a lifelong journey, and your needs may change over time as you progress with your recovery.

Steps for Recovery

Recovering from opioid addiction is a challenging process that requires commitment, effort, and support. Here are some general steps that can help you in your recovery from opioid addiction:

  • Acceptance: The first step towards recovery is acknowledging that there is a problem with opioid use and accepting the need for help.
  • Detoxification: Detoxification is the process of eliminating opioids from the body and managing withdrawal symptoms. This can be done under medical supervision in a licensed medical detox center or drug rehab center.
  • Medication-assisted treatment: MAT involves the use of medications to manage cravings and reduce the risk of relapse. MAT is most effective when combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Behavioral therapies: Detox addresses the issue of physical dependence on opioids, while behavioral therapies can help you to isolate and alter negative thought patterns and behaviors.
  • Support groups: Support groups offer support and access to a readymade sober support network.
  • Lifestyle changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle – eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep – can help those in recovery by reducing stress and improving overall well-being.
  • Continued care: Opioid addiction is a chronic condition, and ongoing care is often needed to maintain recovery without relapse. This may include regular check-ins with a healthcare provider, ongoing use of medications, and continued participation in therapy and support groups.

Recovery from opioid addiction is a unique process, and the steps and timeline may differ for each individual. The key is to remain committed to the process regardless of challenges, seek support when needed, and focus on the progress you have made.

Seeking Support with Treatment

Seeking opioid addiction support when required is an essential step in treating opioid use disorder. Here are some options for those seeking support during treatment:

  • Healthcare providers: Healthcare providers like doctors, nurses, and addiction specialists can provide medical and emotional support during treatment. They can prescribe medications, monitor progress, and provide guidance and encouragement throughout the recovery process.
  • Support groups: Support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous), SMART Recovery, and Celebrate Recovery can provide a sense of community and understanding. Support groups offer a safe and supportive environment in which you can share experiences, receive feedback, and gain insights from others with lived experience of addiction and recovery.
  • Friends and family: Family and friends can play a crucial role in supporting your recovery by offering emotional support, encouragement, and practical assistance – transportation to treatment appointments or helping with household responsibilities, for instance.
  • Virtual support: Online support groups, forums, and chat rooms can provide support and information for individuals who may not have access to in-person support or prefer to remain anonymous. Some popular online support groups for opioid addiction include In the Rooms and Reddit’s r/OpiatesRecovery.
  • Mental health professionals: Mental health professionals such as therapists or counselors, can provide additional support for the emotional and psychological challenges that often accompany addiction and recovery.

Remember that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Making sure that you have a sober support system in place during treatment and beyond will maximize your chances of sustained recovery.

Get Treatment for Opioid Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

Whether you are addicted to opioid-based prescription painkillers, heroin, or fentanyl, Ohio Recovery Centers have opioid addiction solutions available at our Cincinnati drug & alcohol rehab.

If you need a supervised medical detox, we can connect you with suitable facilities near you. Medications can alleviate the intensity of opioid withdrawal, while at the same time reducing cravings during detox. After 7 to 10 days, you will be ready to engage in intensive outpatient treatment at our rehab facility in Cincinnati.

All opioid addictions respond favorably to medication-assisted treatment, both during detoxification and throughout ongoing therapy. At Ohio Recovery Centers, MAT is combined with behavioral therapies like counseling and psychotherapy to deliver the most favorable treatment outcomes.

During your treatment for opioid addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers, you will identify your personal addiction triggers, and a therapist will help you create healthy coping strategies to when confronted by stressors in your ongoing recovery. All treatment programs at Ohio Recovery Centers include an aftercare component as opioid addiction, like all addictions, has high relapse rates.
When you are committed to living opioid-free, call (877) 679-2132 for immediate assistance.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn