Outpatient Opioid Rehab: Pros and Cons

At Continuum Outpatient Center, we offer comprehensive outpatient opioid treatment designed to support you on your journey to recovery.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a medical condition characterized by the problematic use of opioids. Opioids are both prescription pain relievers (like oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine) and illicit substances like heroin.

outpatient treatment program

Criteria for OUD

OUD is characterized by a pattern of opioid use leading to significant impairment or distress. The DSM-5 provides criteria for diagnosing OUD.

Some of these criteria include:1
  • Opioids are taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control opioid use
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to get, use, or recover from the opioid’s effects
  • Craving, or a strong desire to use opioids
  • Recurrent opioid use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
  • The person continues to use opioids despite ongoing social or relationship issues caused by them
  • People may stop or cut down on important activities due to opioid use
  • Recurrent opioid use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
  • Continuing to use opioids despite knowing that the substance may have caused or worsened their problems
  • Developing a tolerance, meaning the need for more opioids to get the same effect or getting less effect from the same amount
  • Withdrawal symptoms, or the use of opioids to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
The presence of at least two of these symptoms within a 12-month period may indicate an opioid use disorder. The severity of OUD is specified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the number of criteria met.2

The Significance of Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid use disorder can lead to significant problems, including death. In 2021, opioids were responsible for 75.4% of all drug overdoses. Opioid outpatient treatment can be an effective way to address opioid use.3

How Does Outpatient Opioid Treatment Address Long-Term Opioid Use?

Outpatient programs offer a comprehensive way to help people with long-term opioid misuse. These programs aim to support sustained recovery. Outpatient opioid treatments are designed to help people with opioid use disorder.

They include various aspects, such as:

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT uses approved medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. These medications can include methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. MAT is often used in combination with other therapies to treat the whole person, rather than just addressing the substance use.4

Individualized Treatment Plans

Outpatient opioid treatment is tailored to the needs of each individual. When making a treatment plan, programs consider:
  • The severity of the substance use
  • Any co-occurring disorders
  • Personal circumstances
  • Other health issues
Programs complete regular assessments that help to adjust the treatment plan as the individual’s needs change over time.

Counseling and Behavioral Therapies

These therapies are crucial to support long-term recovery. Two common approaches for treating opioid misuse are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI). These approaches help individuals change their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use.

Psychiatric and Psychological Services

Many individuals with OUD also have co-occurring mental health disorders that require treatment. To support long-term recovery, outpatient opioid treatment provides access to psychiatric care. This includes medication management for mental health conditions.

Continuity of Care

Outpatient programs offer support and can refer to other services, like residential treatment or sober living. These referrals can provide continued care that supports long-term recovery.

Opioid treatment programs aim to create a stable and supportive environment for recovery for the person. Outpatient programs are flexible, so people can still maintain their daily tasks while in recovery.

The Roles of Nutrition and Physical Fitness in Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Exercise and nutrition play supportive roles in outpatient opioid treatment. Focusing on these activities can contribute to the physical well-being and recovery of participants. Including exercise and nutrition in your daily routine can have many added long-term benefits.

Physical Fitness and Recovery

Opioid misuse often leads to a neglect of physical health. Engaging in regular exercise can counteract this. Exercise restores physical well-being.

It addresses issues that are often worsened by opioid use, such as:

  • Weight fluctuations
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Weakened immune function 
  • Blood pressure issues

Exercise is instrumental in the recovery of brain function. Chronic opioid use alters the brain, especially in areas related to reward, stress, and self-control. Exercise aids in brain recovery and the formation of new neural connections.

How Exercise Impacts Mental Health

Physical exercise can also improve sleep quality, which is often poor among individuals with opioid use disorder.5
Beyond physical health, exercise plays a crucial role in enhancing mental health. It reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.6 Many people recovering from opioid misuse often experience depression (36%) and anxiety (29%).7
Additionally, physical fitness also helps in reducing drug cravings and managing stressors that could lead to relapse. Exercise provides a healthy routine, replacing time and rituals spent on seeking drugs.

Nutrition and Recovery

Addressing nutritional deficiencies is another critical aspect of recovery from opioid misuse. Opioid use can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients such as vitamins B and C, calcium, and magnesium.8
Nutritional counseling identifies these gaps and recommends dietary changes or supplements. It also provides guidance on managing gastrointestinal issues caused by opioids, like constipation.
Nutrition counseling is part of a broader push toward healthier lifestyle choices. It addresses specific health issues worsened by opioid misuse, like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Harm Reduction Strategies in Opioid Use Treatment

Outpatient opioid treatment often offer harm-reduction strategies to lessen the negative effects of opioid use. The main aim of harm reduction is not to immediately stop drug use. Instead, it focuses on reducing harm while helping individuals recover at their own pace.9
There are several ways that opioid treatment programs might use harm reduction. These will be detailed below.

Provision of Naloxone and Fentanyl Test Strips

Naloxone is a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. Outpatient programs often provide naloxone and teach people how to use it in an overdose emergency.10
Programs may also provide individuals with fentanyl test strips. These can check drugs for fentanyl, a potent substance causing many overdose deaths. According to the CDC, nearly 88% of opioid overdoses are due to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.3

Safe Use Education

Programs that use harm reduction strategies may offer education on safer drug use practices. This helps to reduce the risk of overdose or infections.
Safe use education includes information on:
  • Safer injection techniques
  • The importance of not using substances alone
  • Understanding the potency of synthetic opioids like fentanyl

Needle and Syringe Programs (NSP) and Supervised Consumption Services

NSP provides clean needles to lower the chance of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. They also offer other services and help.
Outpatient programs may also help people find supervised consumption sites. At these sites, individuals can use drugs with medical supervision. This supervision is important in case of overdoses.

Health Education and Care Services

General health services, including vaccinations, wound care, and screening for various health conditions, are provided. Education on maintaining health while using substances is also a component.
These strategies reflect a recognition that recovery is a complex and individual process. Reducing harm is a critical component of supporting long-term health and sobriety.
Outpatient opioid treatments meet individuals in their recovery journey. Harm reduction helps ensure safer practices and reduces overdose and infection risks. These programs provide ongoing support for recovery goals.

The Role of Creative Therapies in Opioid Treatment Programs

Treatment can improve emotional expression and mental health by using creative approaches. These therapies help with healing through the process of creative expression. Holistic treatment modalities often complement more traditional therapeutic techniques.
Here’s how they contribute to treatment and recovery:

Music Therapy

Music therapy can help individuals explore their emotions, manage stress, and reduce anxiety or depression.

Music engagement allows people to express themselves without words. This can be helpful for those who struggle with communication. Rhythmic components of music have been shown to aid in functions such as timing, coordination, and motor skills development.11

Art Therapy

Art therapy helps people express themselves and deal with emotions using visual art like drawing and painting. Creating art can serve as a distraction from cravings. It can also help process traumatic experiences often linked to substance use disorders.

Drama Therapy

Drama therapy uses theater techniques, like role-play and storytelling, to help people solve problems and reduce drug-related harm. 

It can promote self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal skills. These skills are beneficial for those rebuilding their lives during recovery.12

Impact of Creative Therapies on Emotional Expression and Healing

The impact of these therapies can be significant. When combined with traditional therapies, these approaches enrich the treatment experience. This leads to a more holistic and person-centered approach to recovery.

The Importance of Peer Support in Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Peer support plays a vital role in outpatient opioid treatment. Peer and community-based initiatives can enhance the effectiveness of treatment approaches. They provide a layer of support that is both relatable and empathetic.
Many treatment programs include support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to help with recovery. These groups are facilitated by peers in recovery. When people share their experiences, it helps create a sense of community and understanding.
Outpatient programs often have peer recovery coaches who help individuals in treatment. They provide guidance based on their own recovery experience.

Impact of Peer Support on Sense of Belonging and Support

In outpatient opioid treatment, peer support can include social activities and sober events. These events can help fill the social void that may occur when one stops using opioids.
These events are safe for socializing and leisure, without substances:
  • Peer-led initiatives are based on understanding and respect, which can reduce isolation and stigma
  • Peers can share stories and experiences to inspire and motivate recovery
  • People are more likely to trust others who have successfully recovered themselves
  • Seeing peers who are in recovery can provide hope and a tangible vision for the future
  • Peers often provide a level of accountability
  • Peer support continues outside of treatment hours, offering ongoing support and a sense of belonging
Adding peer-led programs to opioid treatment can improve the support for those in recovery.

Relapse Prevention and Sustained Recovery with Outpatient Opioid Treatment

It’s crucial to rebuild social networks and connections to prevent relapse and maintain recovery progress. Opioid treatment helps people avoid relapse by helping them build support. Connecting with healthy social networks supports individuals in maintaining sobriety.
These connections help prevent relapse by offering support and encouragement. Having strong social connections can also help individuals create a new identity within a community, apart from their substance use.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

Outpatient opioid programs help people stay on track and continue their recovery. They offer a variety of services to prevent relapse including:
  • Medication-assisted treatment to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Counseling and behavioral therapies to address underlying causes of opioid use
  • Education on relapse prevention
  • Support from peer groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Aftercare planning to offer ways to address triggers and cravings once treatment ends
  • Life skills training and family therapy to strengthen recovery foundations
  • Holistic approaches, such as mindfulness and yoga, further fortify individuals against relapse

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment and its Role in Outpatient Opioid Programs?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines medication and counseling to treat substance use disorders. It is often used to treat dependence on drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers.
The prescribed medication operates to:
  • Normalize brain chemistry and body functions without the negative effects of the abused drug.
  • Block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids.
  • Relieve physiological cravings.
  • Some medications, such as naltrexone, can stop the euphoric effects of opioids. This can make people less interested in using opioids.

The Importance and Benefit of MAT

MAT can play an important role in increased retention rates for treatment programs. Studies have shown that those using MAT were almost 2 to 3 times more likely to remain in treatment than those not using it.13

In outpatient treatment, MAT can help people live a normal life by providing structure and support. This balance is crucial for long-term recovery. It helps people remain stable, reducing the chance of relapse.

Addressing Co-Occurring Conditions with Outpatient Treatment

Many people who receive outpatient opioid treatment also have chronic pain, mental health issues, or trauma. Research has suggested rates of co-occurring mental health conditions with OUD to be as high as 75.6%.14 Addressing these issues concurrently is critical for effective treatment and long-term recovery.
Here’s how outpatient opioid treatment might address these co-occurring conditions:

Chronic Pain Management

Opioids are commonly prescribed for treating chronic pain. To help with chronic pain in people with opioid use disorders, treatment programs may prescribe non-opioid pain medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen.
Some programs might also include physical therapy for those suffering from chronic pain. Physical therapy exercises and techniques focus on improving pain and functional capacity. Pain education is also an important aspect of addressing chronic pain.
Outpatient treatment for opioids may also use other approaches to help people handle pain. Approaches like acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care may offer extra pain relief.

Mental Health Conditions

To treat OUD and mental health issues, all providers involved in the person’s care should work together. Treatment is effective when both conditions are addressed in a personalized treatment plan.
This might include:
  • Providing appropriate medications for mental health conditions that are safe to use with MAT
  • Using evidence-based therapies to address underlying mental health issues
  • Providing support groups for people with dual diagnoses 
  • Teaching coping strategies for dealing with mental health crises, alongside access to crisis intervention services

Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma can have a big impact on opioid treatment. Outpatient programs with trauma-informed care can help those with trauma more effectively.

To improve outpatient opioid treatment, therapies such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) can be provided. These approaches specifically address the effects of trauma.

These programs can also:
  • Create a safe treatment environment for emotional stabilization.
  • Teach techniques to manage stress and increase mindfulness, which can be helpful for those with a history of trauma.

Build Resilience and Overcome Adversity with Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Resilience is a powerful tool in outpatient opioid rehab. It helps individuals not only bounce back but also come back stronger. In outpatient treatment, resilience is built through various techniques. People learn strategies to deal with stress, cravings, and triggers.
Programs encourage setting and working toward personal goals. This gives individuals a sense of purpose and direction. Having workshops teaches people how to use their strengths and provides them with extra tools and knowledge.

What is Post-Traumatic Growth?

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is the positive change that happens when people face life’s challenges. PTG goes a step further than resilience. It transforms the struggle with substance use into a platform for profound personal change.15

Counselors assist in recognizing new strengths and center therapy on the positive changes in recovery. In outpatient programs, strength-based therapy can focus on personal attributes instead of substance use.

Pros and Cons of Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Outpatient treatment for opioid misuse has many benefits for people seeking help. However, it’s always important to weigh your treatment options in order to find what truly works for you, taking into account your unique needs, goals, and circumstances.

Pros of Outpatient Opioid Treatment

One positive attribute of outpatient treatment is its flexibility. Individuals can maintain their daily responsibilities while receiving treatment. Having flexibility can lower stress and make treatment more accessible for busy people.
Also, outpatient programs often provide a higher degree of privacy. This is because individuals do not need to explain a prolonged absence to the people in their lives.
Other pros include that treatment is often less expensive than inpatient care. This makes it a financially viable option for many. Outpatient care helps people use coping strategies in their everyday lives.

Cons of Outpatient Opioid Treatment

Outpatient treatment also comes with certain cons. People might struggle to avoid relapse triggers without the structure of inpatient treatment. The reduced level of supervision means that participants must be self-motivated and disciplined.
It can be hard to deal with strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms from opioid misuse. Continuing to be in the same place where drugs were used can make recovery harder. Old habits, relationships, and routines may impede progress.
There are advantages to outpatient treatment, but it’s crucial to consult professionals to find the right fit. If you or your loved one could benefit from guidance in deciding on a treatment opportunity, know that our Continuum Outpatient Center team is here to answer questions and provide support.
outpatient opioid treatment

Receive Effective Outpatient Opioid Treatment with Continuum Outpatient Center

What is Continuum Outpatient Center? We are a treatment center in San Antonio, Texas, focused on person-centered care for substance abuse and mental health. Our program assists patients in overcoming challenges associated with substance use.

We use evidence-based therapies, holistic wellness techniques, and relapse prevention strategies to help individuals achieve and maintain recovery.

What We Offer

Our program focuses on building resilience and teaching skills to avoid relapse. Developing coping skills allows individuals to maintain sobriety after leaving treatment. In this way, we seek to guide you through treatment and sustained recovery after.

In addition to evidence-based methods like CBT and MAT, our therapy sessions may incorporate trauma-informed yoga, EMDR, and exercise. These approaches help with underlying trauma and opioid misuse, and provide tools for a healthier life.

Contact Us Today

Find the effective outpatient opioid treatment that you deserve at Continuum Outpatient Center. Our team of trained professionals is ready to walk with you into recovery. Start your journey today by calling 210.405.5935 or reaching out online.

We’re here to help you heal.

Questions About Treatment?

Reach out to our knowledgeable and compassionate Continuum Outpatient Center team for the guidance and support you need for sustainable recovery. We’re here to help you build a foundation for long-term happiness, wellness, and healing.