Opioid addiction treatment and recovery

Overcoming opioid addiction is a long and difficult journey for most people. Addiction is a chronic disease that often requires long-term medical attention and treatment. Treatment usually includes a combination of addressing the opioid use itself and support through counselling, strategies to help prevent relapse, and treatment for other mental health issues. 

Before you start your treatment, a personalized care plan is developed together with your family doctor, often by working with another doctor that specializes in addiction. This involves choosing the right opioid dependence treatment and finding the right resources to support you through long-term recovery.

Developing your care plan

Everyone’s recovery journey looks different. That’s why a personalized care plan takes your specific situation into account. The care plan outlines the steps you will take to treat your addiction and the goals you aim to achieve. Just like other chronic medical conditions, developing a care plan helps to ensure you get the treatment that’s best suited to your needs and situation.

Methadone and Suboxone are medications used to treat opioid addiction. They work by reducing cravings for opioids. Both methadone and Suboxone are effective in treating opioid dependence. However, they are very complex medications that could interact with other medications and need regular monitoring and adjustments. So, it’s important to work with your doctor to learn more about these two medications and decide which one is best for you. You’ll also work closely with your pharmacist to ensure whichever treatment you’re using is taken safely and to prevent potential interactions.

Methadone: methadone is a liquid medication that is mixed with fruit juice and given in the pharmacy. Because it comes as a liquid, the amount can be changed in small increments, allowing your dose to be reduced very gradually over time. Usually when you start on methadone therapy, you’ll get your daily dose in the pharmacy while being observed by a pharmacist. When you reach a stable dose and are no longer using opioids, you may start getting take home methadone doses. These are called “carries”. Carries allow you to take your medication at a convenient time without having to visit a pharmacy every day.

Suboxone: Suboxone is available as a tablet that’s dissolved under the tongue. While methadone works in the same way as opioids, Suboxone works slightly differently and may not provide the same degree of relief from withdrawal symptoms for some people. As with methadone, when you start on Suboxone, you’ll take your dose in a pharmacy and start receiving take-home doses once your dose stabilizes and you no longer take other opioids.

There are also some new treatments now available such as Sublocade and Kadian. Talk to your prescriber to see if this is an option for you.

When you’re on methadone and Suboxone treatment, you’ll need to go to the pharmacy regularly, often every day. That’s why it’s important to pick a pharmacy that’s convenient for you. Shoppers Drug Mart has a convenient network of pharmacies across the country, with most open 7 days a week with extended hours, and many open on holidays.

Our pharmacies all have private counselling rooms to ensure that you can receive your treatment in a private and confidential manner.

Support for long-term recovery

Chronic conditions often need ongoing care to manage different aspects of your health with various health professionals and services. To help you achieve and maintain long-term recovery from opioid addiction, it’s important to combine opioid replacement therapy with counselling and any other support services you may need.

Individual counselling and group therapy, such as Narcotics Anonymous, are extremely helpful because they help you address underlying problems that led you to an opioid addiction in the first place.1 There are also many available digital tools that provide timely and convenient mental health support. To help you recover and maintain long-term sobriety, it’s important that you live in a safe, stable and supportive environment. If you need help finding work or housing, you may be referred to a social worker by your doctor.


Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse effects of an opioid overdose and allow time for medical help to arrive.

Addiction recovery is a long process, and many people relapse. That’s why it’s so important for you and the people you are with to have a naloxone kit on hand, and to know how to use it in case of an overdose. Naloxone kits are available without a prescription at most pharmacies and health services locations. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to get a kit for free.

Talk to one of our pharmacists to find out how you can get a naloxone kit. The pharmacist will also teach you how use it.


  1. The Importance of Integrated Care in Fighting Opioid Use Disorder (2018). https://www.ajmc.com/contributor/caroline-carney/2018/05/the-importance-of-integrated-care-in-fighting-opioid-addiction. Accessed April 26, 2020.
  2. Best Practices across the Continuum of Care for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder (2018). Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-04/CCSA-Best-Practices-Treatment-Opioid-Use-Disorder-2018-en.pdf. Accessed April 26, 2020.
  3. Opioid Use Disorder (Including Opioid Addiction). (n.d.). https://www.hqontario.ca/portals/0/documents/evidence/quality-standards/qs-opioid-use-disorder-patient-guide-en.pdf. Accessed April 26, 2020.
  4. Naloxone: Save a Life (fact sheet). (2019). https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/naloxone-save-a-life-fact-sheet.html. Accessed April 26, 2020.
  5. Opioid-Related Disorders (2018). Lefebvre. E-Therapeutics. Canadian Pharmacists Association.
  6. Opioid Agonist Program – Suboxone (n.d.). Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres. https://www.oatc.ca/opioid-agonist-program-suboxone/ Accessed April 26, 2020.