Addiction Treatment
Addiction Treatment

Overcoming Opiate Addiction

Badge Icon

Medically reviewed: 02/13/2019
Last updated: 05/13/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Opiate addictions can develop from misusing legalized opiate medications as well as illegal drugs. The use of prescription pain-relief medications, such as codeine and Demerol can lead to addiction just as surely as heroin and opium abuse does. Overcoming opiate addiction requires the same dedication and treatment care regardless of the type of opiate involved.

The steps for overcoming opiate addiction can vary depending on where a person falls along the addiction continuum. Someone who’s become physically dependent on opiates will most likely have different treatment needs than someone suffering from an all-out addiction. The high potential for relapse also creates an ongoing challenge for the recovering addict. Fortunately, the wide range of opiate treatment programs available can provide a person with the tools and strategies needed for overcoming opiate addiction at any stage of recovery.

Opiate Dependence vs. Opiate Addiction

Overcoming Opiate Addiction

Recognizing that a problem exists and that you want to stop is the first step to overcoming addiction.

The words dependence and addiction are often used interchangeably, but they actually represent two distinct stages of drug use. Knowing which stage of addiction you’re in can help to determine what steps are needed for overcoming opiate addiction. Opiate dependence has to do with the body needing opiates, much like it needs food and water, to function normally. Opiate addiction involves both a physical and a psychological need for opiates.

Someone who’s addicted to opiates has developed compulsive behaviors to the point where getting and using drugs becomes the number one priority from day-to-day. Someone who’s dependent on opiates will experience physical withdrawal symptoms when drug dosages are reduced or eliminated. As a result, overcoming opiate addiction usually requires more intensive treatment than overcoming a physical dependence on opiates.

Potential for Relapse

In general, opiate drugs have a powerful impact on brain and body functions. Opiate addiction is a chronic disorder meaning it often stays with a person through the course of his or her life. According to Harvard Health Publications, once the body becomes dependent on opiates a person’s tolerance levels continue to rise. The longer a person continues using the more likely addiction will develop. Making it through the detox stage helps reduce the body’s physical dependency, but the addiction aspect remains. In effect, the potential for relapse becomes a built-in part of the recovering addict’s everyday life.

For these reasons, overcoming opiate addiction means learning ways to prevent relapse from happening. Medication treatment, psychotherapy and ongoing group support can help recovering addicts remain drug-free.

Treatment Considerations

A big part of overcoming opiate addiction has to do with obtaining the type of treatment that best meets a person’s overall needs. Someone who’s used for a long time would derive little benefit from an outpatient treatment program when first entering recovery. On the other hand, someone only dealing with a physical dependency may not require the intensive treatment care provided through inpatient programs.

In the case of long-term opiate use, the need for ongoing medication therapy to keep cravings in check becomes an essential part of maintaining abstinence. Ultimately, the quality and type of treatment a person receives will have a considerable bearing on his or her success in recovery.