Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder

Key points

  • It is important to provide treatment for people experiencing opioid use disorder to prevent overdose or even death.
  • Opioid use disorder is a medical condition. Treatment can help. Recovery is possible.

Opioid use disorder is a medical condition

Treatment can help. Recovery is possible.

Opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD), is a chronic disease that can affect anyone. In fact, millions of Americans experience OUD.1

As with most other chronic diseases, OUD is treatable. If you or someone you know is experiencing OUD, treatment is available. While no single treatment method is right for everyone, recovery is possible, and help is available for OUD.


SAMHSA's National Helpline is a great resource to share with someone who may have a substance use disorder. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4537).

The goal of treatment

Preventing overdose death and finding treatment options are the first steps to recovery. Treatment may save a life and can help people struggling with opioid use disorder get their lives back on track by allowing them to counteract addiction's powerful effects on their brain and behavior. The overall goal of treatment is to help people regain their health and social function.

Opioid use disorder treatment can vary depending the patient's individual needs, occur in a variety of settings, take many different forms, and last for varying lengths of time.

Evidence-based approaches to treating opioid use disorder include medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) and combining medications with behavioral therapy. Research has demonstrated that MOUD is especially effective in helping people recover from their OUD;234 counseling and psychosocial support may also provide additional benefit for some patients. A recovery plan that includes medication for opioid use disorder increases the chance of success.

Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan Laws exist in many states. In the event of an overdose, these types of policies may protect the person experiencing an overdose and the person seeking medical help for the person experiencing an overdose from drug possession charges.5

Find help

Treatment options

To treat those with opioid use disorder, it is crucial to expand access to evidence-based treatments, including medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).

Medications for opioid use disorder

Medications used in the treatment of opioid use disorder support a person’s recovery by helping to normalize brain chemistry, relieving cravings, and in some cases preventing withdrawal symptoms. The choice to include medication as part of recovery is a personal medical decision, but the evidence for medications to support successful recovery is strong.


  • Available as dissolving tablet, cheek film, or extended-release injection.
  • Can be prescribed by a clinician for use outside of a clinic.


  • Available as daily liquid.
  • Can only be used in a certified opioid treatment program setting.


  • Can be prescribed by any clinician who can legally prescribe medication.
  • Only used for people who have not used opioids for at least 7–10 days.

Talk with a doctor to find out what types of treatments are available in your area and what options are best for you and/or your loved one. Addiction is a treatable, chronic disease; be sure to ask your doctor about the risk of returning to drug use and overdose.

Additional treatment options

  • Outpatient counseling can help people understand opioid use disorder, their triggers, and their reasons for using drugs. This form of treatment can be done at a doctor's office or via telehealth appointment.
  • Inpatient rehabilitation at a full-time facility provides a supportive environment to help people recover without distractions or temptations.

Find treatment services

You can also use these resources to find services that fit your needs:

Getting support

Everyone can play a role

If you notice that someone may be experiencing opioid use disorder:

  • Ask if you can help. Everyone can play a role and take action to help their loved ones in recovery. Treatment and the support and help from family, friends, co-workers, and others can make a big difference in the recovery process.
  • Be supportive, and reduce stigma. Stigma or the fear of stigma may stop someone from sharing their health condition and prevent them from seeking the health or behavioral health services and support services they need. Recognize that opioid use disorder is a medical condition, not a moral failing. Stopping stigma is important to helping loved ones feel safer and healthier.
  • Carry naloxone. Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose and prevent death. It is a non-addictive, life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose when administered in time.

Learn more about signs of opioid addiction and how other people found the road to recovery.


Learn more about recovery

Related features

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP23-07-01-006, NSDUH Series H-58). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  2. Mattick RP, Breen C, Kimber J, Davoli M. Buprenorphine maintenance versus placebo or methadone maintenance for opioid dependence. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2014;(6):CD002207.
  3. Mattick RP, Breen C, Kimber J, Davoli M. Methadone maintenance therapy versus no opioid replacement therapy for opioid dependence. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009;(3):CD002209.
  4. Fullerton CA, Kim M, Thomas CP, et al. Medication-assisted treatment with methadone: assessing the evidence. Psychiatr Serv 2014;65:146–57.
  5. GAO-21-248, DRUG MISUSE: Many States Have Good Samaritan Laws and Research Indicates They May Have Positive Effects