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What Should I Expect During Treatment for Opioid Addiction?




Opioid use disorder (OUD) affects 16 million people globally and about three million U.S. citizens. This disorder occurs when a person can no longer control their use of opioids despite the negative consequences it causes in their life. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 92,000 people died in the U.S. due to drug-related overdose in 2020 – underlining the severe problem on our hands.

Thankfully, professional treatment makes it possible to recover from opioid addiction (whether it involves prescription drugs or heroine) and regain control over one’s life. You can learn about opioid addiction treatment here to understand how you can start your recovery journey. Meanwhile, you can expect the following during opioid addiction treatment.


Before treatment commences, a clinician – doctor, nurse, or psychologist – assesses your condition to determine the severity of your addiction and other underlying issues. The evaluation also helps them understand your unique needs so they can create a treatment plan tailored specifically for you.

Your clinician also assesses you during treatment. Ongoing assessment helps ensure you receive the right level of care and allows providers to track your progress and identify potential setbacks. 

A comprehensive OUD assessment includes clinical and laboratory testing. Clinical assessment tools help providers identify risky behaviors and assess the severity of withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, laboratory tests can confirm the diagnosis of OUD and help monitor your response to treatment.


If you’ve been using opioids for a long time, your body has probably become dependent on the drug. As such, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and sometimes even life-threatening, so it helps to detox under medical supervision. Typical opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Intense cravings for opioids

Medically-supervised detox helps manage these symptoms and makes the process safe and comfortable. During detox, a team of professionals monitors you closely, provides support, and addresses your concerns.


After detox, you’ll begin treatment for OUD. The goal of treatment is to help you stop using opioids and prevent relapse. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.

The most common medications used to treat OUD are methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These medications help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to stick to treatment. They also reduce the likelihood of overdosing if you relapse. 

Behavioral therapies help you change your thinking and behavior around opioids. They can also address underlying health issues contributing to your addiction. Common behavioral therapies for OUD include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy- to identify and correct the thoughts and behaviors contributing to your addiction.
  • Motivational interviewing – this approach helps you explore the ambivalence you may feel about change and helps you find the motivation to continue with treatment.
  • Contingency management: This provides rewards – such as vouchers or prize drawings – when you meet treatment goals.

Treatment usually lasts for several months, although some people may need it for a year or more. Similarly, the treatment duration depends on your addiction’s severity and other issues. Also, treatment may take place on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Counseling and Support

Even as you get medication, it is necessary to go for counseling. Counselling aims to help you change your thinking and behavior. A health professional in your care team can help you understand your addiction, develop healthy coping skills, and work through underlying issues that may be contributing to your addiction. These may include:

  • Difficulties in your workplace, school, or home.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • The environment you live in – if it’s full of drugs or violence, for example.
  • Problems with your mental health.

You may seek counseling in the same facility offering medication or a separate setting. Also, counseling can be individual or group-based, often lasting for several months.

Support groups can also be helpful. These groups provide peer support and can help you realize your treatment goals.

Often, family and friends play a pivotal role during treatment. They can provide support and understanding and help you stay on track. All in all, counseling and support services offer emotional guidance as you navigate your recovery.

Recovery and Relapse Prevention

After completing treatment, you’ll enter the recovery phase. During this phase, you work to maintain sobriety and build a life free of opioids. To do this, you’ll need to find new activities and hobbies to replace drug use, develop a support system, and learn healthy coping skills.

You may also need to continue with some form of counseling or therapy and attend support groups regularly. These services can help you avoid relapse. Even so, relapse is a common part of recovery, but it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. If you relapse, reach out for help. Many people must try several times before they can stay sober for good. The important thing is to keep trying.

Completing treatment is just the beginning of your journey. To achieve lasting recovery, you must put in the work. But with commitment and support, you can overcome addiction and start a new journey full of hope and immense possibilities.