What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Opioid Addiction?

What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Opioid Addiction?

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Opioid addiction is a widespread problem that affects millions of individuals, families, and communities. Over 435,000 adults in the United States reported using heroin in 2014, while 4.3 million reported recreational use of prescription opioids.

As with diabetes and heart disease, opioid addiction is a chronic condition with no known cure. But it is manageable, and individuals with addiction can recover.

So, what is the most effective treatment for opioid addiction?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to opioid addiction. Medication alone can effectively treat opioid addiction for some, while others may need a combination of medication and counseling to get over it.

This post discusses key facts about opioid addiction treatment. Read on to find out the various treatment options available to you or your loved one.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids, also known as narcotics, are a class of drugs. They include potent prescription painkillers like tramadol, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl. Heroin, an illegal drug, is an opioid too.

A medical professional may prescribe an opioid to relieve pain when you suffer an injury or undergo major surgery.


You may also get these drugs when having severe pain from cancer or other medical issues. Some medical professionals prescribe them for chronic pain.

When used as directed by a physician and for a brief period, prescription opioids for pain relief are often safe. However, opioid abuse and addiction pose significant risks.

What is Opioid Abuse and Addiction?

Prescription pain relievers are useful when used as directed by a healthcare provider. But if you use them to get high or are borrowing someone else’s opioids, then you are abusing the drugs.

Continuous abuse of these medications can lead to overdose, risk dependence, and addiction. Addiction makes you compulsively find drugs even though they harm you.

What Are the Treatments for Opioid Addiction?

There are various treatment options for opioid abuse and addiction, including:

  • Medications
  • Counseling and behavioral therapy
  • Residential and hospital-based treatment
  • Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) involves a combination of medication, counselling, and behavioral therapies.

What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Opioid Addiction

So, what is the most effective treatment for opioid addiction? Buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are medications that effectively treat opioid addiction.

Buprenorphine and methadone

A combination of buprenorphine and methadone help lessen cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They function by reaching the same brain targets as other opiates but without necessarily making you high.

Some individuals fear that taking buprenorphine or methadone would mean they are replacing one addiction with another. But this is not the case; these medications are a treatment.

They balance out the areas of the brain that addiction has disrupted. That enables your brain to rejuvenate as you work towards recovery.


A drug combination of buprenorphine and naxolone also serves as a treatment for opioid addiction. Naxolone treats opioid overdose. So, if taken alongside buprenorphine, you are unlikely to abuse the latter.

These medications are safe to take for years or even a lifetime.  But do not try quitting taking them on your account if you wish to. Instead, discuss an exit plan with your healthcare provider first.


Compared to buprenorphine and methadone, naltrexone functions differently. It does not alleviate cravings or withdrawal symptoms.

Instead, it inhibits the drug-induced thrill that comes from using opioids. For this reason, naltrexone helps prevent relapse, not quit opioids.

You must have abstained from opioids for seven or more days before taking naltrexone. Otherwise, you risk experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

How Does Counseling Treat Opioid Addiction?

Counseling helps with opioid addiction by:

  • Changing your attitude and behavior relating to drug use
  • Driving healthy life skills
  • Helping with consistency in alternative treatment, such as medication.

There are various counseling approaches available to address opioid addiction, including:

Individual counseling

It involves goal-setting, acknowledging setbacks, and appreciating accomplishments. You can also share legal issues and family problems.

Counseling frequently incorporates particular behavioral therapies, such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – Enables you to identify and break bad thoughts and behavioral patterns. You learn coping mechanisms from it, such as handling stress and altering the thoughts that make you want to abuse opiates.


  • Motivational enhancement therapy – Helps increase your incentive to adhere to your treatment plan.
  • Contingency management – The goal of contingency management is to reward you for making wise decisions, like abstaining from opioids.

Group counseling

Group therapy gives you the impression that you are not struggling alone. You can learn about the struggles and achievements of others who face similar issues.

This can assist you in picking up new ways of handling such problems.

Family counseling

If you are suffering from opioid addiction, you can undergo counseling together with your close family members, including your spouse and children. Family counseling can help restore and improve your family relationship.

Counselors can also direct you to additional services you may need, including:

  • Peer support groups, such as 12-step movements like Narcotics Anonymous
  • Religious and spiritual organizations
  • Hepatitis and HIV screening
  • Educational or employment support groups
  • Agencies that can assist you in finding accommodation or transportation

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

Residential programs blend housing and therapeutic support. Since you share a residence with your friends, you can encourage one another to maintain sobriety.

For those with health issues, inpatient hospital-based programs integrate medical care and addiction treatment. Moreover, hospitals may provide specialized outpatient services.

Suboxone treatment

All these treatments are structured and often involve different counseling and behavioral therapy options. They also include medications sometimes.

Bottom Line

So, what is the most effective treatment for opioid addiction? The answer is medication and counseling.

Medicines like buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone, when used as directed by a physician and coupled with counseling, can effectively counter opioid addiction. But therapy success varies from one patient to another based on their treatment needs.

A person’s environment and family support may affect their treatment needs. Others may have an underlying mental condition which complicates the recovery process.

Some individuals require repeat therapy and relapse multiple times before attaining long-term success. Healthcare workers may have to try different approaches for individuals who relapse often.

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