Treatment for Opioids

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What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic brain disease, or addiction, that results in the persistent use of opioids or opiates despite harmful consequences caused by their use.

Those affected by OUD typically expierence both a physical dependence to opioids, leading to extreme discomfort or withdrawal if trying to stop or reduce amounts, and a loss of control over use that can lead to problems that include changes in mood, work performance issues, conflict in relationships, legal challenges, and adverse health consequences.

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2.7 million

people in the U.S. suffer from an opioid use disorder


Relapse rates may be as high as 80% without medication treatment.

Only 1 in 5

adults with Opioid Use Disorder receive medication treatment.

Opioid use disorder and overdose from opioids are one of the leading causes for injury-related death. These numbers don't include the impact OUD can have on people's everyday lives, their family, and their community.

Research has consistently shown that medications for opioid use disorder help people recover from opioid use disorder and reduce risks related to opioid use, including overdose. Despite the availability of safe and effective treatment, only 1 in 5 adults with OUD receive these medications.

Frequently asked questions

What are the reasons for addiction?

Opioids produce several physiological responses in the body, including pain relief. They can also activate the reward system in the brain creating a sense of well-being and euphoria. This activation of the reward system can make opioids addictive for some. 

As opioids are taken regularly, continued use can lead to the development of tolerance. This means that higher amounts are required for the same desired effect which can include pain relief as well as improved sense of well-being. Over time, individuals may eventually experience a physical dependence to opioids which can lead to painful withdrawal symptoms if stopping or reducing the amount. This may lead to some primarily taking opioids to avoid withdrawal. Importantly, the development of tolerance and physical dependence alone does not mean someone has an opioid addiction. 

What symptoms accompany opioid use disorder?

Opioid use disorder is diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on the presence of symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The symptoms that make up the diagnosis may include problems developing in the following areas: 

- Difficulty controlling the use of opioids 

- Cravings, or strong urges, for opioids 

- Opioids impacting ability to complete important responsibilities 

- Getting into potentially dangerous situations because of opioids 

- Tolerance to opioids (needing a higher amount for the same effect) 

- Development of withdrawal symptoms if stopping 

Symptoms may vary from person to person and a qualified medical professional can assist in diagnosing and discussing treatment options to address symptoms. 

What are the medical issues with opioid use disorder?

Opioids produce physiologic effects in the body other than pain relief and euphoria. Regular use of both prescribed and non-prescribed opioids can contribute to adverse health effects that include constipation, nausea, suppression of the immune system, and changes in hormone levels. 

The use of injectable opioids can increase the risk for bloodborne infections including hepatitis B and C, HIV, and bacterial infections that affect multiple major organ systems. 

Large doses of opioids can impair motor skills leading to accidents and slow or even stop breathing, which can lead to overdose. 

Treatment options

There are 3 effective medications available to treat opioid use disorder: methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone, Sublocade), and naltrexone (Vivitrol). Each of these medications works in a slightly different way to stabilize the brain and support long-term recovery through stabilizing withdrawal, reducing craving, and protecting against fatal overdose.

Medication alone can make a meaningful difference on the path to recovery from OUD and do not require other forms of treatment to be effective. However, many also benefit from additional support, including therapy, support groups, and recovery coaching, to develop new skills to support their recovery.

Making an appointment to speak with an addiction specialist to discuss your individual situation can help determine what treatment options are appropriate for you.

How Frontier Recovery works

Empowering you on a path to healthy living


Comprehensive assessment to understand your goals


Personalized medical treatment plan based on shared decision-making


Coaching sessions to develop new skills and support change


Digital tracking to assess progress toward your goals


Regular follow-up to assess treatment response & support long-term success
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