A Look at Medications Used to Treat Opioid Addiction


It is widely known that there is a major problem with opioid addiction. Communities are fighting this epidemic every day. For families who have a loved one who is addicted to opioids, it can be terrifying. The effects of these drugs are fast-acting and long-lasting. Seeking opioid treatment is the only way a person can free him or herself from the hold opioids has on them.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) has proven to be the single best way to treat opioid addiction and get people back on the path to health. There are several medications that may be used in MAT. Here is a look at each of them and how they work.


Buprenorphine is a newcomer in the treatment of opioid addiction, but it has proven to be effective due to its ability to activate opioid receptors. This tricks the body and reduces cravings while also stopping withdrawal symptoms from manifesting. Typically, though, buprenorphine medications are used in acute situations or for long-term management to prevent a relapse.

It comes in adjustable doses matched to the needs of the patient. It is given in pill form and has few side effects. Buprenorphine may be distributed by doctors, but it can be expensive.


Naltrexone (brand name is Vivitrol) is most often used as part of the maintenance phase of treating someone addicted to opioids. It is a receptor blocker, which means it prevents a person from getting high if they do use an opioid. It will not help with prevention of withdrawal symptoms, and it will not prevent cravings. It is offered in pill form or injected on a monthly basis.


Clonidine is another medication that is not successful on its own in treating substance addiction. It is actually a blood pressure medication, but has shown effectiveness in helping reduce the fight or flight response that is typical in opioid withdrawal. It is generally used only with other medications and treatments.


Methadone is probably the best-known pharmacological therapy for opioid dependence. This is because it is the most widely used. The reason is simple: it is the best treatment available. It is effective at stopping withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It can also be used over a long term with doses being gradually lowered to wean a person off once they have reached recovery.

The biggest drawback with methadone is it must be distributed at a clinic. This requires a person to visit a center to receive their dose. This is why it is recommended as a solution during immediate recovery and not a long-term solution. It also can cause serious side effects when not used correctly, including depressed breathing. However, medical professionals carefully monitor doses, and a person is never given enough of the drug to get a high from it. Rather, the dose is enough to retrain the brain to prevent the need for further medication.

An addiction to opioid drugs can be impossible to beat without treatment. This is because these drugs change the way a person thinks and how their brain works. MAT has proven to be the most successful way to treat this type of addiction and help a person to become free and healthy. Learn more about our MAT program and which treatment centers offer MAT.

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