Trusted Content

Does Opiate Addiction Ever Go Away?

Joseph Sitarik, DO

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

March 12, 2019

The opiate substance abuse problem is far-reaching. In the U.S., people abusing some form of opioids (opiates) number in the millions. Prolonged use and abuse of opioids can have staggering long-term health effects that can leave an individual with permanent damage. Seeking treatment for addiction is the best way to limit the lasting effects of opiate abuse.

One of the largest of these is the change in the way a person’s brain works due to continued abuse. When a person makes the shift from recreational use to abuse, his or her brain actually changes to cause a person to seek substances in a compulsive way. The urges a person feels can be controlling and dangerous. Silencing the voice of these cravings may be one of the most difficult parts of recovery. But can this voice be silenced for good?

What Are The Obstacles To Permanently Overcoming Addiction?

For decades, researchers have been working to implement new ways for people to overcome addiction. Some of these methods have been extremely effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, teaches a person to build lifestyle habits which will foster a life free from drugs. Counseling gives people an outlet for their thoughts, and teaches them positive ways to cope. Medication is also used in some instances, both to treat symptoms of addiction and to ease the effects of withdrawal.

However, for some, medications can be a hindrance in substance abuse treatment. They may nearly as addictive as the substances people are abusing. Yet for people striving to overcome substance abuse long term, medication may be the answer. Opioids, for example, are highly addictive. When a person goes into treatment for opioid abuse, he or she may experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goose bumps
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

Opioid withdrawal can be very uncomfortable. We strongly recommend that a person never seek to undergo this alone, instead, we urge that you choose a medical detox.

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How To Treat Addiction Symptoms In The Long Run

To ease the intensity and duration of these symptoms, a physician may prescribe opioid medications. This may seem like a contradictory approach—fighting opioid abuse with other opioids. Yet research into this method is finding that it can be quite effective.

This belief is in response to the glaring fact that we have found to be true again and again: substance abuse significantly changes the brain. A person afflicted with substance abuse will continue seeking substances, often even after extensive treatment, simply because his or her brain is wired to do so. Fighting these urges becomes a daily struggle which can be difficult even with ample support.

Allowing people affected by substance abuse to recover with opioids lessens their chances of experiencing the all-consuming cravings. Further, some people who have been treated with this method report that they do not experience the cravings while on the medication, but are also not experiencing the addictive side effects they would with other, more potent, illicit opioids. With prescription buprenorphine or Suboxone, for instance, some people report that cravings are relieved, yet they do not experience the euphoric feelings which cause them to become addicted.

A new approach to treating opioid abuse that is not nearly as accepted is the monitored administration of heroin. This method and its subsequent effectiveness in treating those affected by heroin abuse, spurred the legalization of heroin in Canada. Clinics in Canada may now, with a physician’s referral, use a legalized form of heroin similar to the opioids mentioned above to treat addicted individuals.

Participants receive injections in a sterile environment, with professional supervision. This means they get medications that work by bonding to the opioid receptors in the brain. Essentially, with this form of treatment, people can be safer and function better in daily life. In addition, this method removes the pressure to seek substances illegally, and professional monitoring of administration significantly decreases risk of overdose and infectious disease.

It is often said that recovery is a journey. This, against the scientific breakthrough that now considers addiction a disease, means that in some capacity, you will always be involved in the process of recovering from your opioid addiction. Some people may continue to intermittently experience cravings years after treatment, either minimally or extensively, whereas others may not to the same extent. Regardless, it is important that you continuously monitor your thoughts and behaviors and brush up on your coping skills, to ensure that you remain on track and protected against relapse.

What You Should Consider When Seeking Treatment

Despite how desperately some people need substance abuse treatment, it can be a costly process which requires an extensive level of commitment. Some factors to review before making decisions are:

  • Severity of substance abuse—this affects the need for inpatient or outpatient recovery. Inpatient programs occur in rehabilitation centers or hospitals, while outpatient recovery is completed at home.
  • Funding—recovery may take weeks to months to complete, and inpatient programs can be pricey. Outpatient extended treatment can continue for years (such as counseling). Luckily, resources exist to make treatment possible for many people. Grants, scholarships, state-funded insurance plans, and sliding fee pay scales are a few options.
  • Medication—treating with other potentially addictive medications means a risk of replacing one form of substance abuse with another. This is a decision which must be carefully weighed under the guidance of a physician or addiction specialist.
  • Co-occurring disorders—some people may have more than one substance use disorder, or even a mental health disorder in addition to their substance use disorder. Medication and treatment should address the needs of any and all disorders to give a person the best chance for a full recovery.

Despite the extensive nature of the decision, it is important to remember that treatment offers you the best and most comprehensive option for sobriety and success.

Beat The Odds: Get Help Today

Too many people fall victim to substance abuse. They find the relapses and continual urges impossible to overcome. That does not have to be your story. If you are reading this because you are searching for answers for you or a loved one, you came to the right place. Contact us today at to begin a new chapter.

National Institute On Drug Abuse - America’s Addiction To Opioids: Heroin And Prescription Drug Abuse

New York Times - Addiction Treatment With A Dark Side

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Opiate And Opioid Withdrawal

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