Skip to main content

How Opioid Substitution Therapy Works

What treatment options do you offer?

We offer OST (Opioid Substitution Therapy) for opioid drug addiction as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

What is Opioid Substitution Therapy?

If you are addicted to opioid medications or opioid based street drugs you will go through withdrawal symptoms when you can no longer obtain the opioids your body has become accustomed to.

People refer to feeling “sick” and having severe flu like symptoms. OST is when a physician practicing in OST prescribes an opioid medication that counters the withdrawal symptoms and acts as a substitute for the opioids you were already taking.

Is it that simple?

That’s the basic idea. For more on opioids scroll down.

Click the orange button to find the nearest clinic to obtain more information.

Find A Clinic

What is an opioid?

Drugs derived from the opium poppy plant are opioids. Synthetic drugs that have a similar chemical structure are also opioids.

How do I know if I’m taking opioids?

The most commonly prescribed opioid medications are pain medications. If you are taking medications commonly used for treatment of acute or chronic pain they are probably opioids.

Likewise the main “street drug” that is an opioid is heroin. Cough syrups and headache medications may also contain opioids.

Does OST work on drugs other than Heroin?

Yes. It also works on opioid cough syrups, pain pills, headache medication, pain patches, and IV pain medications.

What do opioids look like?

They can be in the form of pills, patches, capsules, liquids and other forms.

How do opioids work?

They attach to receptors in the brain.

What are the effects of opioids?

The common effects of opioids are pain relief, sedation, constipation, and respiratory depression.

What are opioids used for?

They are commonly used to treat patients with chronic or acute pain. In general opioids should not be prescribed for longer than two weeks when used to treat acute pain.

Can some OST medications be used for chronic or acute pain?

Yes. Opioids block certain pain receptors in the brain. In general opioids should not be prescribed for a period of longer than two weeks for treating acute pain. However, for treatment of pain you should get a referral to a pain clinic.

How are the opioids used in OST different than what I’m taking now?

If prescribed by a physician practicing in OST and used as directed at a stable dose they are long lasting, inexpensive, legal, and do not produce the “high” that may be associated with drugs you are currently taking.

Once the proper dose is achieved they suppress withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids.

What are the risks of taking OST without medical supervision?

If you are currently taking opioids without a prescription and medical supervision, you could be at risk of overdose and death, criminal prosecution, contracting diseases from sharing needles, and a variety of other social, emotional, and physical problems.

Why consider OST?

There are two components to addiction. One component is physical. The other is psychological. If you have been taking opioids for a certain period of time your body has become physically dependent on them.

If you stop taking the opioids your body will go through withdrawal and you will feel very “sick.” OST suppresses the physical component of addiction. This allows the patient to focus on taking care of the other aspects of addiction.

Is there more to know about opioids?

There is a lot more information.

Click on the orange button to find the nearest clinic to obtain additional information.

Find A Clinic

What are the other options?

Abstinence based treatments may consist of a medically supervised withdrawal from opioids combined with counseling services.

Abstinence requires the patient to go through withdrawal. During the process the patient loses their tolerance for opioids.

Abstinence based withdrawal without medical supervision is referred to as “cold turkey.”

What are the risks of abstinence based withdrawal?

Due to a loss of tolerance the patient is at risk of overdose and death if opioid use is re-started. The emotional and physical stress of going through withdrawal is intense.

Without resolving the psychological and social aspects of addiction it is likely that the patient may decide to re-start opioid use.

What about rapid detox?

Rapid detox is a process where you are given a drug to counter the opioids that are currently in your body.

Then you may be given other medications to sedate you for the worst part of the withdrawal process.

When you wake up you will still be going through withdrawal and you will have to continue taking the medications to counteract the opioids.

What are the risks of rapid detox?

Just like abstinence-based treatment it only takes into account the physical aspect of addiction. The psychological and social factors that drive people to use drugs are not addressed.

So the patient is at risk of re-starting opioid use. If tolerance is lost the patient is at risk of overdose and death.

Rapid detox does not change any of the habits or situations that got you into using in the first place.

Is there anything else that makes OST more effective?

The effectiveness of OST can be boosted by the addition of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. For more on CBT scroll down.

Click on the orange button to find the nearest clinic to obtain additional information.

Find A Clinic

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

It is a type of counseling that will help with the underlying causes of your addiction. However, if you are unable to concentrate on CBT because you are feeling “sick” it won’t help. OST helps you concentrate on CBT.

What therapy and counseling services do you offer?

We offer therapy and counseling for drug addiction in regards to compulsive drug use, drug seeking, double doctoring, street buying, job loss, personal conflicts, accidents, legal problems, and financial problems.

What are the benefits of OST combined with CBT?

Since you’ve started using drugs your life has probably changed. Think about the changes and how you feel about them. Think about your new problems and all the worries that come with them.

How can my life change if I start OST?

  • You won’t have to get money for illegal drugs. You can avoid involvement in crime or other dangerous situations related to illegal drug use.
  • You take your OST medication by drinking it or letting it dissolve in your mouth under your tongue.
  • There is no injecting and no danger of AIDS or other blood borne diseases from sharing needles.
  • You’ll be more likely to make better decisions about work, relationships, and other important issues.
  • You won’t be taking illegal drugs that are cut with unknown substances.
  • You won’t be exposing yourself to the dangers of criminal prosecution associated with illegal drug use.
  • Your prescribed OST medication when taken as directed is legal for you to possess and use.
  • You will not have to go through complete withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms peak at two to three days after your last use.
  • Symptoms include: myalgia, nausea, abdominal cramps, chills, restlessness, dysphoria, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, and drug craving.

Is there anything else I need to know before starting treatment?

We’ve covered a lot of information. If you want to find out more you can explore medication choices.

Click on the orange button to find the nearest clinic to obtain more information.

Find A Clinic

To find out more about medication options click here.

Get Your Prescription Right








© 2023 Addiction Centre Toronto.
Use of this website indicates your argreement with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. DISCLAIMER: Our website is for informational purposes only. Our website contains general medical information. However, this medical information should not be relied upon in lieu of actual medical advice. If you have any specific medical problems, you should see your physician. Please do not rely upon the general advice on our website, as a replacement or substitute for actual medical advice from your physician. Please see your physician if you have any medical questions or concerns.