Is Opiate Addiction Curable?

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An addiction to opiates can mean many things, since the term 'opiates' covers so many different drugs.

However, as different as they may be, almost all of them all share a common ancestor in the opium poppy and they all share a common euphoria and sedation.


An opiate addict can therefore be addicted to any of the following opiates:

  • Codeine (Tylenol #3, Tylenol #4)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab, Vicodin ES, Vicoprofin, Norco)
  • Oxycodone (Percocet, Percodan, Oxycontin)
  • Oxymorphone (Numorphan, Opana)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Palladone)
  • Morphine (MS-Contin, Morphine Sulfate)
  • Methadone (Methadose, Dolophine)
  • Buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone)
  • Diamorphine (Heroin)

Often times, opiate addicts who might normally abuse one opiate on a regular basis will, if unable to find their preferred opiate, abuse any other opiate they can find. In other words, in opiate addiction when push comes to shove there is no such thing as brand loyalty.

Opiate Addiction Treatment

Treating the opiate addict generally requires five to ten days of chemical detoxification, which might involve severe sedation with a drug called clonopin (sometimes applied in patch form) or a similar drug. This has the effect of blunting some of the more difficult withdrawal symptoms and effectively allowing the addict to sleep through much of the detox process.

Once this process is complete, the true recovery begins. And it is at this point that we can address whether or not an opiate addiction is 'curable.'

Recovering from Opiate Addiction

At the recovery phase, an addict begins to rebuild his or her life and learn to cope with events that, in the past, might trigger the urge to abuse opiates. This is a long process, lived out day by day, and only over time can a patient learn to live life free of opiates again. But although we readily discuss addiction as a clinically diagnosed disease, the term 'curable disease' is controversial at best.

Because a former addict can go many years without abusing opiates and then suddenly, for one reason or another, begin abusing them again, the necessary conclusion is that opiate addiction is not curable the way that a bacterial infection is curable.

Instead, it might be best to frame the disease of opiate addiction in terms of being a manageable disease, not a curable one. It is manageable if the addict chooses to actively manage it—this might take the form of attending an NA meeting once a week.

Since there is always the possibility of abusing opiates and becoming addicted again, the term 'curable' is simply out of step with the reality of the disease.

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