Opioids - Treatment FAQs

Treatment is Effective. Recovery is Possible.

There are many different paths to recovery from the inappropriate use of opioids. Research has shown people seeking recovery are more successful when they combine a prescribed medication with professional counseling and a strong support system. This is called medication-assisted treatment.

Why is it so hard to stop?

Opioids change the body and brain chemistry. Over time, people may need more of the opioid to get the desired effect such as pain relief; sense of pleasure or excitement; or intense feelings of well-being. The need for the opioid becomes a powerful motivator to keep using, even when there is a strong desire to stop. People keep using the opioid to avoid withdrawal symptoms and to stop feeling sick. It is these symptoms and feelings that make it hard to stop an opioid after the body and brain have become accustomed to the drug.

Tools

How do I start?

Overcoming opioid use disorder can seem overwhelming. Here are some places to start.

  • If you know people who stopped using opioids through medication-assisted treatment, you can ask them about their treatment experience.
  • If you have a counselor, case manager, or doctor you trust, you can ask them about medication-assisted treatment options in your area.
  • If you want to explore medication-assisted treatment options on your own, use this directory.

Tool: Next Steps

Which medication do I start?

Three medications are approved for treating opioid use disorder. These medications help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms that come from stopping opioid use.

Methadone and buprenorphine are only available from approved opioid treatment programs and from specially trained doctors. Naltrexone is available through any qualified medical professional.

Tool: Comparing Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

How do I choose a provider?

Medication-assisted treatment is available in a variety of settings, including state and federally regulated opioid treatment programs, private medical clinics, private clinics specializing in the treatment of substance use disorders, and community health centers.

Here are some tips to help you choose a provider:

  • Ask about their approach to treatment.
  • Ask if they have services for your unique needs, if any, including treatment for people with HIV/AIDS and pregnant women.
  • Ask if there is a waiting list and long will it take to be seen.
  • Ask about payment options.

Tool: Talking With a Provider

What happens during treatment?

There are four stages of medication-assisted treatment.

  • Stop using. Focus on controlling withdrawal symptoms, getting through detox, and reaching stabilization.
  • Learn recovery skills. Focus on recognizing high-risk situations and taking action to avoid relapse.
  • Stay in recovery. Focus on finding a routine, building a support network, and learning to have fun without using.
  • Live in recovery. Focus on living a full and meaningful life in recovery through employment, relationships with family and friends, connections in the community, and better overall health.

Resource:  Opioid Treatment Program Patient Reference Handbook, P-23048

What are my rights in treatment?

There are laws to protect people in medication-assisted treatment.

Resources

Opioid Addiction Treatment: A Guide for Patients, Families, and Friends

Use this guide from the American Society of Addiction Medicine to navigate treatment options.

Decisions in Recovery: Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Use this tool from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to learn more about the role of medications in treating opioid use disorder.

 

Last Revised: September 22, 2017