There are a number of different options available to treat opioid use disorder. The best strategy for most people, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), is a combination of medication and counseling and behavioral therapies. This is known as medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.
Medication These include methadone (Dolophine) and buprenorphine (Subutex), two drugs that work by decreasing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. They act on the same targets in the brain as other opioids, but they do not make the person taking them feel high. Naltrexone (Vivitrol) is another option, which works differently from methadone and buprenorphine. It doesn’t help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings but rather takes away the high that you would normally get while on opioids.
There’s no set length of time for MAT, according to the ASAM. Individuals respond differently, but these medications can safely be taken for years.
The ASAM cites research that shows treating opioid use disorder with medication lowers the risk of overdose and death. But not everyone who could benefit from MAT has access to it. Use of these medications must be closely monitored, and only certain doctors can prescribe them. Some people also have the misconception that by taking these medications, they’re simply trading one addictive substance for another. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that’s not the case.
Counseling Talking to qualified professionals about an addiction can be extremely beneficial in the treatment process. Counseling can include individual, group, and family counseling and often includes a combination of these plus medication. For more severe situations, residential/hospital-based treatment is advised.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Also known as CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy is an example of a form of individual talk therapy that helps patients recognize and stop negative patterns of thinking and behavior that can lead to the desire to use opioids.
Peer Support Groups For example, a community group that meets regularly, like a 12-step program such as Narcotics Anonymous or Medication-Assisted Recovery Anonymous. The SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) program also facilitates in-person and online group meetings.
Family Therapy This includes partners or spouses and other family members who are close to the patient. It can help to repair and improve family relationships, which often can contribute to addiction issues.
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