Opioid Addiction & Treatment

Opioid use disorder can occur through the use of illegal drugs such as heroin as well as prescription pain medications such as oxycodone and codeine. Opioid withdrawal can cause uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, but recovery is possible with treatment. Medication-assisted treatment combined with individual therapy and group therapy can improve a person's chance of remaining sober.

What Is Opioid Addiction?

Opioids change brain chemistry as they bind to opioid receptors and activate the brain's reward centers. They release the feel-good hormone, dopamine, and lessen the brain's natural dopamine release. The release of dopamine during opioid use causes pleasurable feelings in the brain, while other areas of the brain form memories that associate opioids with pleasant feelings. These memories are called conditioned associations, and they cause drug cravings. 

Individuals who use opiates for any length of time have unintentionally conditioned their brains to rely on opiate-induced chemicals to make them feel normal. Feeling normal is not limited to feeling euphoric. It can also mean feeling well enough to function daily and complete basic tasks. Without opiates, individuals experience painful physical withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings for more opioids to ease the pain. 

In 2016, more than 11.8 million Americans misused an opioid and 1.8 million had an identified opioid use disorder.1 In 2019, over 70% of overdose deaths involved opioids.

On Average,

0 Americans

Die Every Day from an Opioid Overdose. (2)
As of 2018, Only


of Americans received specialized treatment for opioid addiction. (1)
The opioid epidemic costs the country an estimated

$0 Billion

Every Year. (3)

What Are Opioids?

Drugs classified as opioids include opiates such as heroin and morphine which are derived from naturally occurring opium poppy plants, as well as synthetically manufactured opioid pain relievers. Prescribed opioids include pain relievers such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol, codeine, hydromorphone and oxymorphone.

All opioids bind to one or more of the three opioid receptors in the body and produce an anesthetic, euphoric effect. Both prescription pain relievers and illegal opioids can be used illicitly to “get high." 

What medications are Opioids?



Duragesic®, Fentora®



OxyContin®, Percocet®,
®, Roxicodone®



Vicodin®, Lortab®, Norco®,
® ER, Lorcet®



Ultram, Ultram® ER, Ultracet®



Tylenol with Codeine® 3 or 4



Avinza®, Kadian®,
®, MSIR®



Dilaudid®, Exalgo®



Opana®, Opana® ER

What are the symptoms of Opioid misuse or withdrawal?

It can be difficult to determine if someone is misusing opioids, especially if a physician prescribed them for pain from an injury or illness. Opioid use symptoms can be both physical and psychological, and you can identify them if you know what to look for.

Opioid withdrawal can occur very quickly after someone stops taking opioids for any length of time. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a very strong indication that someone may be misusing their medication. Opioid withdrawal can cause the following symptoms.

Physical Signs of Opioid Use

a sad, sleeping woman who is struggling with drug addiction

  • Drowsiness, lack of energy
  • Nodding off or losing consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Restricted pupils
  • Slowed, shallow breathing
  • Constipation
  • Constant scratching
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • “Track marks” or scars from use of needles

Behavioral Signs of Opioid Use

a hand raised with a building in the background

  • Unusual elation or euphoria
  • Sudden, dramatic mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Dishonesty, secrecy
  • Sudden financial problems
  • Issues with work and family
  • Legal issues, arrests
  • Not keeping commitments
  • Noticeable changes in routine
  • Taking more medication than prescribed
  • Visiting multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for opioids

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

upset, drug addicted woman sitting at a table

  • Aches/pains
  • Chills
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety/restlessness
  • Insomnia

What Is Psychological Addiction?

A substance use disorder can begin after an illness or medical procedure, or with the recreational use of drugs. No matter how a substance use disorder begins, most individuals who struggle with opioid use disorder eventually begin to depend on their drug of choice to help them deal with the challenges of life. Using opioids as the solution to problems, stress or negative situations is the psychological part of opioid use disorder. The feelings of euphoria help people to forget their troubles, and when these things pop back up in life, the reaction is to use more of the drugs to control those negative feelings.

Addiction can often seem impossible to conquer because of the powerful combination of physical and psychological aspects of the disease, but with the right treatment program and support system, recovery is possible.

Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) uses medications, such as buprenorphine and methadone, combined with substance use counseling to treat opioid use disorders. Approved medications can help people stabilize while they make the lifestyle changes necessary for long-term recovery. MAT has been thoroughly studied for over fifty years, and many consider it to be the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder because of the following reasons:

MAT medications reduce withdrawal symptoms and control cravings.

Medication, supported by counseling and recovery services, reduces the possibility of relapse.

Outpatient programs allow patients flexibility to continue participation in school, work and families while in treatment.

The structured nature of a MAT program helps patients stabilize early in their recovery.

At a therapeutic dose, methadone and buprenorphine do not create the “high” that illicit drugs produce.

Eliminating the use of illicit opioids reduces the risk of contracting diseases or experiencing other health risk factors associated with their use.

Patients involved in a medication-assisted treatment program typically decrease their involvement in dangerous or illegal activities.

How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Work?

Treatment medications such as methadone and buprenorphine are synthetic opioids that work by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain. Methadone is a full agonist opioid, which means that it fully attaches to opioid receptors. Once it attaches, it works slowly to reduce withdrawal symptoms without creating a euphoric feeling. Buprenorphine works similarly in the brain, but it's a partial opioid agonist, meaning it activates receptors less powerfully than methadone. 

Buprenorphine works to decrease withdrawal symptoms, but its effect is less intense than methadone's effect. Additionally, it has a dosage threshold, so its effects can only intensify to a certain point before they plateau, even when an individual takes more of the medication. This helps people avoid misuse during treatment. 

Substance use disorder treatment using methadone is typically best for individuals who used opioids in high concentrations before beginning treatment, and buprenorphine is generally best for individuals who used opioids mildly or moderately.

Counseling for Opioid Use Disorder

Medication-assisted treatment is more effective when it's part of a comprehensive opioid use disorder treatment plan that includes substance use counseling. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and trauma can contribute to opioid use, and opioid use can worsen these conditions. Counseling and behavioral therapy can help individuals learn how to cope with negative emotions, prevent self-destructive behaviors, challenge irrational thoughts and improve relationships.

Individual and group counseling can help individuals address mental health conditions and feel supported during treatment. Addressing these conditions allows individuals to gain control over their emotions and any triggers that could lead to relapse. Psychological factors such as stress can cause cravings, but counseling can help people learn to cope with emotional distress without substance use.

BAART Programs Can Help

In practice for almost 40 years, BAART’s medical, clinical and administrative staff thoroughly understand what individuals in recovery need to successfully overcome opiate use disorder and live healthier, more productive and happier lives. That experience is shown through individualized treatment plans, offering each patient an effective dose of medication alongside proven tools such as behavioral therapy and group counseling. With this harm reduction approach, BAART has helped patients nationwide to regain their lives.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one recover from opioid use disorder. We provide comprehensive treatment that includes behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment to help individuals achieve a better quality of life.

Comprehensive medical assessment including a social and drug history

Methadone or buprenorphine maintenance in clinic 

Suboxone® by prescription

Opioid detoxification utilizing methadone*

Individualized substance use counseling

Group therapy*

Addiction education

Life skills education

Referral services

HIV/HCV screening

Coordinated treatment during pregnancy

Random urinalysis and breathalyzer testing

Relapse prevention and discharge planning

Integrated primary healthcare*

Case management*

Behavioral healthcare*