Opioid Addiction Treatments: Tools to Help You On Your Road to Recovery

Learn More About Various Opioid Addiction Treatment Programs

Overdose deaths remain one of the leading causes of injury-related deaths in the United States, and the majority of overdose deaths involve opioids. According to provisional data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 109,000 people died of a drug overdose in a 12-month period ending in March 2022. Moreover, deaths resulting forms synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased by 80% over the last two years, which is a 44% increase from two years earlier.

With opioid overdose-related deaths on the rise, it is more important than ever to get treatment for opioid addiction. If you are currently experiencing an opioid use disorder, it’s important to understand the possible opioid treatment programs and how they can help you get on the road to recovery. 

What is Opioid Addiction?

Opioid Addiction Definition

According to John Hopkins Medicine, opioid addiction, the preferred term is opioid use disorderis a complex illness characterized by compulsive use of opioids even when a person has the desire to stop or when using opioids negatively affects their physical and emotional well-being. Taking an opioid regularly increases the risk of becoming addicted. The time it takes to become physically dependent varies, but it is usually a couple of weeks of consistent use.

There are many signs that someone is experiencing opioid use disorder. They may have physical symptoms and behavioral changes, such as:

  • Spending time with a different group of people or changing friends
  • Spending more time alone and avoiding time with family and friends
  • Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • A change in hygiene, such as not bathing, changing clothes, or brushing their teeth
  • Being constantly tired and depressed
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Being overly energetic, talking fast, and not making sense
  • Being anxious or irritable
  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping at odd hours
  • Missing important events like doctor appointments, professional meetings, and family events
  • Getting into trouble with the law
  • Missing work or school
  • Experiencing sudden financial hardship

It isn’t well-known why some people become addicted to opioids, and other don’t. Opioids produce pain relief and, for some, euphoria. This euphoric feeling can even happen when using opioids that your doctor prescribes. Experiencing euphoria after taking opioids may be a warning sign of vulnerability to opioid addiction.

Opioid Addiction Treatment

What Are Some Forms of Treatment for Opioid Addiction?

Many treatment options have proven to be successful in helping people with opioid use disorders. Some of the best treatments for opioid addiction, known as Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT), use a combination of counseling and medication.

Examples of opioid treatments include:

  • cognitive-behavioral counseling
  • opioid addiction medications
  • medical devices and applications used to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms
  • skills training
  • evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • long-term follow-up to prevent relapse

According to the American Medical Association, healthcare researchers and experts agree that MAT is a proven to help maintain recovery and prevent death in patients with opioid use disorder. MAT uses a range of care with a tailored program to help treat your opioid use disorder, plus follow-up options, which are critical to success. Opioid treatment programs should include both medical and mental health services. Follow-up care may include community- or family-based support systems.

How Long Does Opioid Addiction Treatment Last?

The length of opioid addiction treatment varies on the type of treatment and by the person. Whichever kind of treatment you end up needing, detoxing from opioids is the first step before you can fully begin any opioid addiction treatment. According to the World Health Organization, withdrawal symptoms from short-acting opioids, such as heroin, start 8 to 24 hours after your last use, and these symptoms can last anywhere from 4 to ten days. For long-lasting opioids, like OxyContin, the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms begins 12-48 hours after your last use, and withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from 10 to 20 days.

For inpatient treatment for opioid addiction, there are both short- and long-term facilities. According to Recovery First Treatment Centers, a short-term inpatient stay for opioid addiction could be anywhere from 5 to 7 days of detox and stabilization. Long-term inpatient opioid treatment stays can range from 60 to 90 days or longer. The average stay in an inpatient treatment center is about 28 days. 

Typically, a month-long inpatient stay is about the time needed to break a habit, receive the appropriate therapy, and return to a productive life. However, the more severe the addiction, the longer the stay.

Opioid addiction treatment medications also vary by the type and severity of your opioid use disorder. According to SAMHSA, opioid addiction medications, such as methadone, treatment should be a minimum of 12 months. You may also require long-term maintenance, and work with your MAT practitioner to gradually reduce your methadone dosage to prevent withdrawal.

Opioid Addiction Medications

What Medications Are Used to Treat Opioid Addiction?

Several medications are used to treat opioid addiction, and each works differently. According to The PEW Charitable Trusts, medications like methadone and buprenorphine are opioid agonists, meaning they bind to and activate cell receptors, called mu-opioids, causing the same biological response in the body as heroin, oxycodone, and morphine. Other opioid treatment medications, like naltrexone, are opioid antagonist that blocks, rather than activates, mu-opioid receptors preventing biological response to the effects of opioids.

Methadone is a full agonist, meaning it fully occupies mu-opioid receptors and lessens the painful symptoms of opioid withdrawal while blocking the euphoric effects. Methadone typically lasts from 24 to 36 hours and helps prevent the cravings associated with opioid use disorder.

Buprenorphine is a partial agonist, so it doesn’t completely bind to mu-opioid receptors. As a result, buprenorphine effects plateau, and will not increase even with repeated doses. Because of this partial effect, even at high doses there is a low risk for overdose from buprenorphine.

Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, doesn’t have any physical dependence associated with its use as an opioid addiction medication. Opioid antagonists are recommended to help prevent relapses and abstinence-based treatment programs, not for withdrawal management. Only the injectable formulation of naltrexone is recommended for managing opioid use disorder.

For opioid addiction medications like naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone, to be successful, they should be patient-specific and paired with an individualized treatment plan.

Besides opioid addiction medication, one systematic review has shown that improvements in diet and exercise can help if you are suffering from an opioid use disorder. During the review, researchers reported that good nutrition education and physical activity were quite effective for substance abusers in their withdrawal from opiates. Further, to help recover from opiate addiction, patients should consume even more amino acids and protein during the treatment process.

Further, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced that lofexidine, the first medication for use in reducing symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal in adults, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Lofexidine, an oral tablet, is designed to manage the symptoms patients often experience during opioid discontinuation. These comfort medications can go a long way into helping people manage withdrawal symptoms and hopefully help prevent opioid overdoses.

Opioid Addiction Counseling and Therapy

How Does Counseling and Therapy Treat Opioid Addiction?

Part of a successful opioid addiction treatment is ensuring that you have a support network, especially after you have finished an inpatient treatment program. Counselors can be essential in helping you with your opioid use disorder and feel that you are not alone on your recovery journey. According to SAMHSA, Counseling helps people with opioid use disorders change how they think, cope, react, and acquire the skills and confidence necessary for a successful recovery. Your counselor can include a range of professionals, such as recovery coaches and other peer-recovery support service specialists who may counsel, coach, or mentor you while you take opioid addiction medication.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

What Are Medication-Assisted Therapies for Opioid Addiction?

According to SAMHSA, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to treating substance use disorders. Medications used in MAT, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). MAT programs are clinically driven and tailored to meet your individual needs.

The goal of MAT opioid addiction treatment programs is to help people make a full recovery, including the ability to live a self-directed life.

MAT has been shown to:

  • Improve survival rate of those suffering from an opioid use disorder
  • Increase retention in opioid addiction treatments
  • Decrease illicit opiate use and other criminal activity among people with substance use disorders
  • Increase a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment
  • Improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant

MAT has proved to be clinically effective and significantly reduces the need for inpatient detoxification services for people suffering from opioid use disorder. MAT provides a more comprehensive, individually tailored program of medication and behavioral therapy that address the needs of most people.

Residential and Hospital-Based Treatment

What Are Residential and Hospital-Based Treatments for Opioid Addiction?

Residential and hospital-based treatments for opioid addictions combine housing and treatment services. In this setting, you live with other people who are also experiencing substance use disorders, and you can support each other to stay in recovery. Residential treatment programs vary in the services they provide, but many try to identify the underlying issues that led to an opioid use disorder while providing recovery support.

One study on residential treatment programs for opioid addiction showed that they might be helpful for emerging adults with opioid dependence. This benefit may be less prominent, though, among non-dependent opioid misusers.

Inpatient hospital-based programs combine health care and addiction treatment services for people with medical problems. Hospitals may also offer intensive outpatient treatment. According to Harm Reduction Journal, hospital-based addiction care focuses on assessing and diagnosing substance use disorders, managing withdrawal, and initiating medications for addiction treatment.

Both types of treatment programs are typically very structured and usually include several different kinds of counseling and behavioral therapies along with opioid addiction medications.

Drug-Free Opioid Withdrawal Symptom Management

More recently, there are drug-free options that can be used to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms. One such drug-free opioid withdrawal treatment is Masimo’s Bridge™. The device is attached behind the ear by a qualified healthcare professional in a non-surgical in-office procedure. Once connected, Bridge™ sends gentle electrical impulses through wires to nerves around your ear and provides up to five days of continuous drug-free opioid withdrawal relief from withdrawal symptoms. Bridge™ has been demonstrated in a clinical setting to reduce withdrawal symptoms and may provide relief as soon as 20 minutes. As with some of the best opioid addiction treatments, Bridge™ is best used in combination with counseling and therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is opioid addiction?

According to John Hopkins Medicine, opioid addiction, the preferred term is opioid use disorderis a complex illness characterized by compulsive use of opioids even when a person has the desire to stop or when using opioids negatively affects their physical and emotional well-being.

How long does opioid addiction treatment last?

The length of opioid addiction treatment varies on the type of treatment and by the person. Whichever type of treatment is you end up needed, detoxing from opioids is the first step before you can fully begin any opioid addiction treatment. According to the World Health Organization, withdrawal symptoms from short-acting opioids, such as heroin, begin 8 to 24 hours after your last use, and these symptoms can last anywhere from 4 to ten days. For long-lasting opioids, like OxyContin, the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms begins 12-48 hours after your last use, and withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from 10 to 20 days.

What medications treat opioid addiction?

There are several medications used to treat opioid addiction, and each one works differently. According to The PEW Charitable Trusts, medications like methadone and buprenorphine are opioid agonists, meaning they bind to and activate cell receptors, called mu-opioids.  Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks, rather than activates, mu-opioid receptors preventing biological response to the effects of opioids.

Are there drug-free opioid withdrawal symptom options?

Yes. Masimo’s  Bridge™ is a device that is attached behind the ear by a qualified healthcare professional in a non-surgical in-office procedure. Once connected, Bridge™ sends gentle electrical impulses through wires to nerves around your ear and provides up to five days of continuous drug-free opioid withdrawal relief from withdrawal symptoms.

What is Medication Assisted Treatment?

According to SAMHSA, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is the use of medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a “whole-patient” approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.

Final Thoughts

Opioid use disorder, or opioid addiction, is best thought of as a medical addition, like cancer or diabetes, that is rather maintained than cured. Like cancer, an opioid use disorder, you can have recurrences, known as relapses. In fact, one study showed a relapse rate of up to 91% in people with an opioid use disorder, indicating that the risk for relapse could be higher for opiate use disorders than it is for other drug addictions.

But it’s important to remember that relapsing doesn’t mean failure. Addressing your individual needs, like mental health treatment, career counseling, physical therapy, nutritional therapy, and other types of support, not just the addiction, can improve your outcome. Getting treatment as soon as possible may save your life and help you get your life back on track. If you are anyone you know is struggling with opioid use disorder or dependency or call the SAMHSA’s hotline to learn how you can start the path to recovery from opioid addiction. 

Masimo is a leader in pulse oximetry, making pulse oximeters and personal health monitoring devices that improve reliability in historically challenging conditions, such as motion and low perfusion. The Masimo MightySat device is effective with a wide range of skin pigments, and the company has pulse oximetry that uses advanced signal processing techniques to provide an accurate reading. One of Masimo’s latest devices, Bridge™, has been demonstrated in a clinical setting to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and may provide relief within 20 minutes.

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The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained in this article, are for informational and educational purposes only. No material within this article is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We urge you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before using a medical device or undertaking a new healthcare regimen.