Understanding Opioids: From addiction to recovery

Opioid use has exploded during the past two decades. Since 1999, sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled. The good news is that there are a number of effective interventions for opioid addiction. These include self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, and rehabilitation programs. Consider using the strategies from Understanding Opioids: From addiction to recovery to discover new ways to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties.

Understanding Opioids: From addiction to recovery Cover

Overcoming Addiction: Find an effective path toward recovery

Addiction can be devastating. Recent scientific advances have shaped our understanding of this common and complex problem. The good news is that there are a number of effective treatments for addiction, including self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, and rehabilitation programs. You can use the strategies presented in this report, Overcoming Addiction: Finding an effective path toward recovery, to discover new ways…

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Most people use prescription opioid medications responsibly. But a growing number are abusing these drugs; that is, taking a different dose than prescribed, getting the drug from a nonmedical source, such as a relative, friend, or Internet seller, or taking the drug for its psychoactive effects. Why? In addition to their powerful pain relieving effects, opioids can produce profound feelings of well-being and euphoria.

Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that, nationwide, 6.1 million people in the US over the age of 12 had used prescription drugs non-medically in the past month. During 2014, approximately 1.9 million Americans met criteria for prescription pain relievers use disorder based on their use of prescription pain relievers in the past year.

The good news is that there are a number of effective interventions for opioid addiction. These include self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, and rehabilitation programs, all of which are detailed in this report. You’ll also find information about coping with a loved one’s addiction.

Life’s problems usually are transient. Instead of using a psychoactive substance to get away from the negative things that happen in life, consider using the strategies presented in this report to discover new ways to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties.

This Special Health Report was prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publishing in consultation with Faculty Editor Howard J. Shaffer, Ph.D, C.A.S., Director of the Division on Addiction at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Field of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard Medical School. 35 pages. (2016)

  • The problem of addiction
    • How common?
  • What is addiction?
    • Substance use disorder
    • Language matters: understanding tolerance, physical dependence, withdrawal, and addiction
    • The use continuum: From harmless to harmful
    • Cultural context
  • How people develop addiction
    • Risk factors for addiction
    • A common brain pathway
    • Dopamine differences
    • Drug, set, and setting
    • How addiction affects the brain
    • The shift toward addiction
  • Recovering from addiction
    • Natural recoverers
    • Are you ready to change?
    • What, why, when, and how?
    • Seeking treatment
    • Acknowledge your ambivalence
  • Working with a therapist
    • Choosing a clinician
    • Types of therapy
  • Opioids
    • From prescription opioids to heroin and beyond
    • Treating opioid addiction
  • When a loved one has addiction
  • Resources
    • Organizations
  • Glossary

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