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Overcoming Opioid Use Disorder

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Setting Personal Goals for Opioid Use Disorder Recovery

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A quick look at the numbers tells you that a lot of people are battling substance use disorders. Every year, millions of people in the U.S. struggle with opioid use disorder. More than 50,000 people died in 2019 from an opioid-involved overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And that number increased to nearly 70,000 in 2020.

But recovery from opioid use disorder is possible. It’s not going to be easy, true. Setting addiction recovery goals can help you navigate the road ahead, one step at a time.

Understand what the recovery process will entail.

At the beginning of the recovery process, a clinician will sit down with you and help you develop a treatment plan. So, it’s important to know what your plan includes or addresses.

For example, will you be using medication-assisted treatment (MAT)? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a few drugs specifically to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings that often occur when a person stops using an opioid. These meds have been proven to be clinically effective in treating opioid dependency and may be an option for you during your recovery journey. They include:

  • Buprenorphine (Sublocade, Suboxone)
  • Methadone (Methadose)
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol)

Also, you’ll need to determine if you will be receiving treatment in an inpatient setting, outpatient setting, or residential setting.

Secondly, does your treatment plan include any kind of counseling, and if so, what will that look like? Counseling with a qualified professional is typically required when MAT is used, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine–and research shows a combination of counseling and medication provides the best results.

Once you know the general components of your treatment plan, you can begin to set some goals.

Set SMART goals

It may seem daunting, or even overwhelming, to figure out how you’re going to get from addiction to recovery. It’s fine to have a big goal in mind, but to get to the finish line, you have to think about small victories that you can reach along the way.

Experts often recommend taking the SMART approach to setting goals. That means incorporating the following principles into your addiction recovery goals:

  • S: Specific
  • M: Measurable
  • A: Achievable
  • R: Relevant
  • T: Time-bound

Specific, achievable short-term recovery goals can help keep you moving forward. And you can set very specific steps to help you achieve each goal. For example, you might start out with this goal: “I want to stay opioid-free for one week.” Then you could create a few strategies to help you achieve that goal, perhaps by pledging to follow the instructions to take the recommended dose of buprenorphine each morning. Once you achieve that SMART goal, you can set the next one: “I want to stay opioid-free for another week.” And you create steps to achieve that goal, too.

Stay accountable for your actions.

After you set some goals, consider taking a few actions that might boost your chances of success:

  • Write your goals down and keep track of your progress
  • Share your goals with your drug treatment or addiction counselor
  • Share your goals with a trusted friend or family member

Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask your community to support you as you work toward your goals. Let them know what kind of opioid use disorder treatment support that you need.

Be aware of possible setbacks.

Recovery is often a journey that zig zags, rather than proceeding forward in an orderly, straight line. You may experience some setbacks, no matter how good your intentions are. You may fail to reach some of your goals. You might have to reexamine your goals and decide to change them. Or you might have to ask for help and then start over again. Setbacks are part of the process. With the right support and mindset, you’ll be able to keep pushing forward.

Your goals may change at some point.

Additionally, you may find yourself approaching a point where you feel strong, and you feel like you’ve really accomplished what you set out to do. Then you can set new goals to help you maintain your success.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 28
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Walter L, et al. Recovery From Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) After Monthly Long-acting Buprenorphine Treatment: 12-Month Longitudinal Outcomes From RECOVER, an Observational Study. Journal of Addiction Medicine: September/October 2020; 14(5): e233-e240. https://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/fulltext/2020/10000/recovery_from_opioid_use_disorder__oud__after.27.aspx
  2. Helping Someone with a Drug Addiction. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/helping-someone-with-drug-addiction.htm#
  3. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). SAMHSA. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment
  4. Opioid Addiction Treatment. American Society of Addiction Medicine. https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/publications/asam-opioid-patient-piece_-5bopt2-5d_3d.pdf
  5. Opioid Overdose Crisis. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis
  6. Opioid Use Disorder. American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/opioid-use-disorder/opioid-use-disorder
  7. Recovery is Possible. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/treatment/index.html
  8. SMART Goals: A How-To Guide. University of California. https://www.ucop.edu/local-human-resources/_files/performance-appraisal/How%20to%20write%20SMART%20Goals%20v2.pdf
  9. Treatment and Recovery. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery