Opioid Addiction: Treatment and Rehab
If you or a loved one abuses opioids, you should know that opioid addiction treatment can be a beneficial and potentially life-saving intervention.1 It can be challenging and uncomfortable to stop using opioids on your own.2 Opioid rehab can help you stop opioid abuse, undergo withdrawal in a safe and supportive environment, and start the recovery process so that you can regain control of your health and well-being.
Opioid abuse is a serious problem in the United States. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.5 million people misused opioids in the past year; 9.3 million of those people misused prescription pain relievers, and 902,000 people used heroin.3 In addition, an estimated 21–29% of people who receive prescription opioids for chronic pain misuse them.4 Opioid addiction doesn’t just harm the person who uses drugs. It also has a social and economic impact and is a key factor in the opioid overdose crisis. In 2019, almost 50,000 Americans died due to opioid-related overdoses.4
If you’re struggling with addiction, or if you want to know how to help someone with an opiate addiction, you should be aware of the options for opioid addiction treatment. Keep reading to learn more about opioid treatment programs and how you or a loved one can get the help you need to stop the cycle of abuse and start the path to recovery.
What Is Opioid Addiction Treatment?
No two people are the same when it comes to their treatment needs. Addiction requires a similar level of personalized care as other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).5 Individualized care takes into account all of the unique needs of a person, including the type and severity of their addiction and any medical, mental health, social, vocational, and legal problems they may be facing, as well as their age, gender, ethnicity, culture, life experiences, etc.6
Rehab for opioid addiction should address specific treatment concerns that may arise—such as potentially severe withdrawal symptoms like cravings, depression, anxiety, or pain—which could lead to relapse.2 You may receive opioid withdrawal treatment, which can include medical supervision and assistance with tapering off opioids—rather than quitting cold turkey—in an effort to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms.2
Addiction Treatment Approaches
A common and effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) involves a combination of medication and behavioral therapies.7 This approach is known as MAT, or medication-assisted treatment.7 The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) advises that medication combined with behavioral counseling is an effective whole-person approach to treatment.7
Before you begin treatment, a comprehensive evaluation is made to determine the appropriate level of care for your needs and establish a long-term plan to promote recovery.8 For many individuals, medical detox is the first step in a comprehensive recovery plan.9 Once a person is stabilized and withdrawal symptoms are adequately managed, the person can enter an appropriate opioid addiction rehab center.10
You may enter an inpatient rehab, where you live onsite, receive around-the-clock care and support, and participate in different treatments. You could also enter an outpatient treatment facility, where you live at home and travel to outpatient opioid rehab for treatment.9 People may start with inpatient treatment and transition to outpatient care as they progress in the recovery process. After treatment is complete, your treatment provider should have worked with you to develop some form of aftercare plan or continuing care plan for after formal rehab treatment ends. This may include individual therapy and mutual-help groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART recovery) to help you stay sober and prevent relapse.
It’s advisable to consult your physician to discuss your addiction treatment needs. Your doctor can provide an assessment and diagnosis that takes into account additional considerations—such as co-occurring medical conditions or mental health disorders like depression or anxiety—to help determine the appropriate level of opioid abuse treatment for you.2
Types of Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Various types of opioid treatment options can be beneficial for people struggling with opioid addiction. No one is the same, so different people may benefit from different opioid treatment settings. Your recovery program may consist of one or more of the following options:9,11
- Detox programs. Detox provides you with support and assistance during the withdrawal period to ensure that you are medically stable prior to entering a formal opioid rehab program. During this time, you may be tapered off the opioid or moved to a medication like methadone or buprenorphine, both of which can reduce or eliminate cravings and opioid withdrawal symptoms. You may receive other medications to help minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings and help you to stay safe and comfortable throughout the detox process.
- Inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment for opioid addiction consists of living at the treatment facility, where you are supervised 24/7. It provides a highly supportive and structured environment where you can focus on recovery. It can be especially beneficial for people with severe addictions, those who have moderate to severe co-occurring mental health disorders, or people who lack a supportive home environment. Inpatient treatment may also be beneficial for teens and adolescents struggling with opioid addiction, as the structured environment can help address their unique needs and attend to specific developmental concerns.
- Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment consists of the same kinds of treatment offered by inpatient facilities, but patients return home after treatment and it doesn’t require living at the treatment facility. Outpatient treatment for opioid use disorder can occur at a wide range of intensity levels. Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) or intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) require participating in treatment for most days of the week, several hours per day. People with less severe addictions or those who have completed more intensive levels of care may enter standard outpatient programs, which offer less structure and may only require attending treatment 1–2 times per week.
- Co-occurring disorder treatment. Around half of the people who have addictions to drugs or alcohol also have mental health disorders, and vice versa.12 When present, these conditions often influence one another in complex ways. Integrated treatment for co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness takes a whole-person approach and is considered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to be superior compared with separate treatment of each diagnosis.13
Your treatment plan, and therefore the appropriate initial setting you’ll be placed in, is based on your needs at the time of intake and evaluation. You will receive a thorough assessment at an opioid addiction treatment program to discuss your needs and any concerns you may have about treatment. Your treatment plan may be adjusted throughout the course of treatment as your needs change.
How Long Is Rehab?
People are often curious about how long rehab for opioid addiction lasts. The duration of treatment can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the severity of the addiction, whether the person has had previous treatment, and other physical or mental health concerns.14 Generally speaking, inpatient stays can range from a few days to a few weeks long, with some programs lasting a month to a year. Outpatient treatment typically lasts 2 months to a year.9
Addiction Treatment Therapies
A variety of evidence-based behavioral therapies and other forms of treatment are used in opioid rehab centers. You might receive some or a combination of the following interventions and treatments:15,16,17,18
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a multifaceted approach that involves education, relapse prevention, stress management and coping skills training, and more. It helps you identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that may have led or contributed to the addiction.
- Contingency management (CM). This approach is based on positive reinforcement. You receive vouchers or other tangible goods in return for positive behavioral changes, such as negative drug screens.
- Motivational interviewing (MI). This can help you identify and explore your personal reasons for wanting to change and stop using opioids.
- 12-step facilitation therapy. This is designed to increase your motivation to participate in community-based 12-step or other mutual support groups.
- Mutual support groups. This includes 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other support groups like SMART Recovery. Many people benefit from the support of others who are in recovery.19
- Family therapy. This can be helpful in addressing issues related to family dynamics and repairing relationship issues that could have been the result of addiction.
Types of Medications for Opioid Addiction Treatment
Medications can be helpful during detox, as well as for the ongoing treatment of opioid use disorders. Treatment medications can help you stay comfortable during withdrawal and prevent relapse once you’ve become medically stable.
FDA-approved medications for treating opioid withdrawal symptoms and/or the treatment of opioid use disorder include:7,10,20,21
- Methadone. This medication is a full opioid agonist that works on the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin, morphine, and other opioid pain medications. It does so more slowly than other opioids, in a way that doesn’t make someone who is opioid-dependent feel high. It can be used during withdrawal and formal rehab treatment, as well as for the long-term management of opioid use disorder. Methadone can eliminate or reduce withdrawal symptoms as well as cravings. It is highly regulated, so it can only be dispensed by a certified opioid treatment program (OTP).
- Buprenorphine. This medication is a partial opioid agonist that also targets opioid receptors without making you high. It also can be used during withdrawal and formal rehab treatment, as well as for the long-term management of opioid use disorder. Buprenorphine can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.
- Naltrexone. This is an opioid blocker, so it prevents you from experiencing the effects of opioids if you use them. Someone dependent on opioids cannot use naltrexone until their body no longer has opioids in it, or else it will induce withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone prevents you from getting high if you take an opioid, but it does not prevent cravings. It can be helpful in preventing relapse during and after formal rehab treatment.
- Lofexidine. This drug is not a treatment for opioid use disorder, but it is a newer, nonopioid medication that has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of opioid withdrawal symptoms. It may be used during detox for up to 14 days.
How to Pay for Opioid Rehab Treatment
Treatment can vary in price. Factors influencing cost include the type of program, the services offered, any available amenities, and more. Understanding how to pay for opioid rehab treatment might feel overwhelming, but there are many ways to make treatment affordable. Some of the ways you might consider paying for treatment can include:22,23,24
- Paying some of the cost out-of-pocket.
- Using health insurance.
- Applying for Medicaid, which is a free/low-cost insurance plan that you may be eligible for depending on your income.
- Using Medicare if you’re eligible for it—this is a federal health insurance plan typically for people aged 65 and older.
- Taking out loans.
- Asking family or friends to help out.
- Applying for scholarships/financial aid.
- Attending a free or low-cost opioid treatment facility that receives public funding.
- Inquiring about sliding-scale or payment plan options.
People with insurance should know that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires health insurers and group health plans to provide the same level of benefits for mental health and substance abuse treatment as they do for medical and surgical care.22
However, coverage can vary by plan. For example, your coverage could look different if it’s an HMO or PPO, you could have different benefits depending on your plan, or you may need to cover your deductible or take copays into account.25 It’s also possible that you’ll have different costs depending on whether you choose an in- or out-of-network provider, and some plans require prior authorization for some services.25 You should check with your specific insurance carrier to determine your exact benefits or verify your insurance now.
Find Treatment for Opioid Addiction
Professional treatment can start anyone battling addiction on the path to a healthier and happier life. Rehab facilities are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Treatment Services Locator to search for treatment centers. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. If you or someone you know suffers from opioid addiction, you can receive the help you need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when you call our drug abuse helpline at . Our friendly staff can help you find the best program or support group for your specific needs. All calls are toll-free and confidential.