Treatments for opioid addiction without more drugs

Treatments for opioid addiction without more drugs

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
Staff Psychiatrist
at Talkiatry
June 28, 2019
In this article

The topic of and treatments for opioid addiction affect many people. Many individuals know someone who previously or currently struggles with addiction to opiates. The misuse of prescription and other opioids affects more than 2 million Americans and an estimated 15 million worldwide each year. This issue has proven equally difficult for friends and family members of those affected, as well as mental health professionals.

Those who treat individuals with addiction are developing recovery tools and methods of therapy to better focus on health and wellness. Yet the possibility of relapse lingers with a study indicating that 40-60% of substance use disorder patients relapsing at some point. Many healthcare professionals are still searching for more effective ways to treat those with opioid addictions.

A vaccine for opioid addiction?

Experts are trying to create vaccines which are effective at treating opiate addiction, in this case fentanyl. These vaccines work much the same as other standard vaccines do, by triggering the body to produce antibodies against opioids. These antibodies, which are part of our immune system, defend the rest of our body against the opiates. This means that the brain and nervous system are not given the chance to create an addiction to opiates. The brain and nervous system both play a key role in forming feelings of reward and motivation. By preventing the opiates from producing these heightened emotions, it also removes the incentive to take opiates. Vaccines are a relatively new way of treating opioid addiction.

This vaccine for the treatment of opioid addiction is just one method of alternative treatment. With healthcare professionals searching for more well-rounded treatments, other wellness-based treatments for opioid addiction are evolving. Despite the growing trends, many people do not know the details of these recovery tools for managing opioid addiction. Additional options for treatment are group and individual therapy, animal-assisted therapy, art therapy and biofeedback.

Group and individual therapy

Group or individual therapy is often a recommended component in treatment for opioid addiction. One of the techniques that may be used is cognitive behavioral therapy which we discussed here. Another technique which can be used is psycho-educational group therapy or PGT. PGT can enhance motivation in addicts who have relapse episodes.

These therapy's are a great way to address the root cause of a person’s opiate addiction by providing a person with tools to manage their addiction. This may include training in mindfulness and other stress management practices. These practices teach you to remain in the moment and resist cravings. Other areas this type of therapy can address are emotional regulation, coping skills, positive communication, and managing relationships.

Animal-assisted therapy

Equine therapy is one type of animal-assisted therapy. This form of therapy can help those with addiction and other mental health diagnoses. Many people assume this involves riding horses, which is not the main focus of equine therapy. Rather, this type of treatment uses the animal to provide emotional support while engaging in tasks such as feeding or grooming the animal. Some people choose to care for the horse as part of their therapy, yet others may use the horse as a constant source of support during other activities.

Dogs and other animals have also been found to help patients focus and feel more comfortable during counseling sessions. Treatment activities vary based on the therapist but are similar in their encouragement of active personal exploration, social interactions, and behavioral tendencies.

Art therapy

An expressive form of therapy called art therapy encourages exploration during a healing process. While art can be a leisure activity which promotes calming and relaxation, art therapy is a more structured form of expression. Art therapy does have the same benefit of art practiced as a hobby, as it can promote relaxation and creativity in those with anxiety or depressive symptoms. However, art therapy is the formal use of various art mediums according to a therapist’s instruction. Clay, drawing, painting, sculpting, and making collages are just some of the activities a therapist uses to explore deeper issues which may be the cause of your addiction and addictive tendencies. The goal of art therapy is to discover or rediscover traumas which may have initially caused substance use. A well rounded treatment plan can be created using these traumas.


Biofeedback is a monitoring tool which uses vital signs to help someone manage stress. A machine records basic vital signs such as brain waves, heart rate, muscle tension, sweat activity, and more. Recording these vital signs may increase a person’s awareness of bodily processes which can be adjusted in order to manage emotions. For example, if a biofeedback machine finds your resting heart rate is too high, this identifies the need for techniques which reduce anxiety in any situation. The biofeedback machine cannot develop these techniques for you, but a qualified mental health professional can guide you through the process. Developing techniques to better manage your emotions will assist in lowering frequency of cravings and increasing control over your addiction.

Support groups as treatments for opioid addiction

Many people know of support groups for individuals who are caregivers or people who have recently experienced a loss. There are both local and national support groups available for a large number of diagnoses. Support groups can help those with opioid addiction to understand they are not alone in their struggle. Addiction may cause an individual to lose their family, friends, housing, employment, and more. For this reason, support groups can provide a sense of community and belonging during the recovery process. Support groups can also be a great place to learn of what has worked for others going through similar issues. These groups are always confidential and are often free, with meetings in many big cities across the country.

Opioid addiction remains a difficult issue to overcome, even with strong recovery tools. As with many other diagnoses, there is no sole treatment method that will eliminate opioid addiction for good. Addressing many aspects of an individuals situation is a good way to achieve recovery from opioid addiction. This gives individuals a greater chance of managing their addiction and living a fulfilling life. Opioid addiction can take a devastating toll on someone, but there are quality treatments for opioid addiction which can help bring them back to what they love and speaking to a mental health professional is a great first step.

At Talkiatry, our providers are available for consultations on a wide variety of mental health symptoms. Our providers can determine if treatment is recommended and what options are appropriate for you.

About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a local, accessible and complete mental healthcare solution that accepts insurance. We close the gap for individuals who want to get better, but feel that mental health care has been challenging to navigate up until this point and want a more convenient way to take the first step. Talkiatry takes the traditional local mental health visit and combines it with technology, scale, efficiency, and design to provide the best possible environment for healing.

The Talkiatry branded mental health practice is independently owned and operated by a licensed Psychiatrist. For more information about the relationship between Talkiatry Management Services, LLC and the branded group practice please click here.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.

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