Addiction Treatment Options to Supplement Medication and Therapy

The opioid crisis in the U.S. can’t be ignored. The death rate from opioid overdose has risen six-fold between 1999 and 2017. On average, an astonishing 130 Americans die from an overdose each day. Treatment centers bravely battle against these statistics, but relapse rates remain high, and doctors have yet to find a “cure” for opioid use disorder. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), combined with counseling, is one of the most effective treatment options available. However, the best treatment is a comprehensive approach tailored to each individual. There are various supplemental therapies and activities that have proven successful for different patients.

person sitting in leaves with head down

Let’s take a look at these additional treatment options. Perhaps one of these ideas will resonate with you or a loved one struggling with opioid addiction.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Withdrawal symptoms and cravings experienced when patients try to stop using opioids can be harrowing and last for about a week. Symptoms can be so intense that they can be fatal, or at least feel that way, and this is what makes successfully navigating detox so incredibly difficult.

Medication-Assisted Treatment involves using other drugs like buprenorphine to manage symptoms. Some of these drugs are either partial or full opioids that replace dangerous street drugs like heroin with a safer substance. As opioids, they have a similar effect on the brain so they stave off withdrawal symptoms and cravings. You can learn more about buprenorphine-based treatment here.

For some patients, doctors slowly reduce their prescription to eventually free the person from dependence on opioids completely. Other patients take the drugs as maintenance for years.

Counseling Therapies

MAT is usually not administered by itself but in conjunction with counseling. A few therapies that providers have found to be helpful include:

● Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Patients learn to recognize and change behaviors, learn coping skills, and identify and avoid risky situations

● Contingency Management: Counselors use a material reward system for desirable behaviors

● Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Patients learn that rational thought comes from within and is the basis of being happy, not your circumstances

● 12-Step Programs: Support groups help patients maintain abstinence through regular meetings

Other counseling methods or combinations of methods certainly exist, but these are the main ones. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment and each patient should receive individualized care.

Complementing Treatment Options

In addition to medication and counseling, there are many activities that patients can participate in that will aid their journey to recovery as well as establish healthy habits for the future.


Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain. These are the so-called ”feel good” chemicals.

Man lifting weights at the gym

Endorphins also reduce stress and relieve pain. The effect is so powerful that exercise is often used as a form of prescribed pain management.

Working out can also help with the withdrawal symptoms during treatment. Plus, healthy exercise habits can help patients maintain sobriety after treatment.


Massage can relieve stress and help patients relax, potentially mitigating withdrawal symptoms. As a mind-body touch-based approach to treatment, preliminary studies show positive results, particularly among female patients.


Addiction treatment and recovery is an extremely stressful time for patients. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems often arise.

Mindful meditation can help reduce the effects and give patients a tool to help calm themselves and relax. Continued practice after treatment can also help with relapse prevention.

Animal Therapy

There’s more than just “something” about petting a dog or a cat that makes people feel better. Stroking animals can actually increase the production of oxytocin in the body. This chemical is associated with making you feel better as well as facilitating social bonding.

Man walking dog in the park

Substance abuse treatment providers have also found that equine-assisted therapies are helpful. In addition to the positive effect of the animal’s presence, going to the stables for therapy allows patients to feel more like a “real person,” not just a patient. Patients that participate in these therapies have a lower dropout rate.


Think about something peaceful and pleasant. You probably thought about something in the natural world. Perhaps you thought about canoeing on a peaceful lake, sitting on the seashore listening to the waves, or hiking through the mountains.

Nature has a soothing effect on us, and spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress.

Spending time in nature can help facilitate treatment. Making it a regular habit afterward can help patients reduce the need for something to take the edge off. Better yet, going for a jog or bike ride outdoors will give patients a double-dose of healthy, feel-good chemicals.

looking up at the trees

Finding Treatment Options for Substance Abuse Disorders

Whether you or a loved one is struggling with opioid use disorder, know that there are many treatment options out there. Though it may not feel like it now, there’s hope. Reach out today to learn more about fighting the battle against opioid use disorder and winning.