Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Medication for Opioid Addiction

Table of Contents

Opioids are strong medications that doctors prescribe to help people with severe pain. But these drugs can also be very addictive. When someone can’t stop taking opioids, even when they cause harm, they have an opioid addiction.

Fortunately, there are treatments that can help. One important type of treatment is using medication. This approach, called medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, involves using certain medications to help control the addiction and the cravings that come with it. These medications work in different ways and can be very effective when combined with counseling and support.

Is Opioid Addiction a Disease?

Yes, opioid addiction is a disease. Just like diabetes or heart disease, it’s a medical condition that needs treatment. In the field of addiction medicine, this condition is officially called “Opioid Use Disorder” (OUD). Here are some important things to know about this disease:

  • It affects the brain. Opioid use can change the brain, leading to drug abuse and dependence. These changes make it hard to stop using opioids, even when they’re causing problems in your life.
  • It can happen to anyone. Just like other diseases, OUD can affect anyone, regardless of age, job, education, or background.
  • It’s chronic. This means it’s a long-term disease that often requires ongoing treatment.
  • It can be severe. OUD can lead to a lot of health problems, like overdose or diseases spread by sharing needles. It can also cause problems at work, school, or with family.
  • Treatment can help. Just like other diseases, treatment can help people with OUD live healthier lives.

Remember, if you or a loved one is dealing with opioid addiction, it’s important to seek help from healthcare professionals. They can provide medication, counseling, and other opioid treatment programs that can help you recover.

Symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid Use Disorder has several symptoms. These can include:

  • Taking opioids in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended
  • Not being able to cut down or control opioid use
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the effects of opioids
  • Craving opioids
  • Not being able to carry out important duties at work, home, or school because of opioid use
  • Continuing to use opioids, even when it causes problems in relationships or physical or psychological harm
  • Giving up or reducing activities because of opioid use
  • Using opioids even when it’s physically hazardous
  • Continuing to use opioids despite knowing that they’re causing physical or psychological problems
  • Developing tolerance (needing higher doses to get the same effect)
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more opioids

The Role of Medication in Opioid Addiction Treatment

When a person stops taking opioids, they can experience withdrawal symptoms. This is their body’s way of saying it’s used to having the drug and misses it. These symptoms can include things like feeling sick, not being able to sleep, and feeling extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, certain medications can help ease these symptoms.

Medications for opioid addiction do two things. First, they help reduce cravings, which are strong urges to use opioids. Second, they help prevent relapse, which means they stop people from going back to using opioids again. This helps people recover and live healthier, happier lives.

There are three main types of medications used to treat opioid addiction. They are Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone.

Methadone: An Effective Treatment Option

What Is Methadone and How Does It Work?

Methadone is a medication that works by attaching itself to the same places in the brain that opioids do. This way, it fools the brain into thinking it’s still getting the opioids, which helps reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The Process of Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Methadone treatment is something that people usually do for longer periods of time, which we call “maintenance treatment.” This means they take Methadone under a doctor’s care to help them stay away from other opioids.

Pros and Cons of Methadone as a Medication for Opioid Addiction

Methadone can be very helpful, but it also has some risks. For example, it can be dangerous if taken in higher doses. So, it’s important to use it only as a doctor prescribes.

Buprenorphine: A Promising Medication for Opioid Addiction

Understanding Buprenorphine and Its Mechanism of Action

Buprenorphine is another medication that can treat opioid addiction. It works much like Methadone but is a little different because it doesn’t give the same “high” as other opioids do.

Different Formulations of Buprenorphine (Sublingual, Transdermal, etc.)

Buprenorphine can be taken in different ways, like under the tongue or through a patch on the skin. It’s also sometimes combined with another medication called naloxone to prevent misuse.

Advantages and Limitations of Buprenorphine in Addiction Treatment

Buprenorphine can be very useful, but it also has some limits. For example, it needs to be taken as prescribed by a doctor, and not everyone can get access to it.

Naltrexone: A Non-Opioid Medication for Opioid Addiction

How Naltrexone Works in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction

Naltrexone is different from Methadone and Buprenorphine. Instead of acting like an opioid in the brain, it blocks the effects of opioids. This means if a person tries to use an opioid while on Naltrexone, they won’t feel the usual effects.

The Role of Extended-Release Naltrexone Injections

Naltrexone can be taken as a pill or as an extended-release injection. This kind of injection is a shot that slowly gives medication over a long time.

Considerations and Potential Side Effects of Naltrexone Treatment

Naltrexone can be very helpful in treating opioid addiction, but like all medications, it has potential side effects like feeling tired, upset stomach, or nervous.

The Importance of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

The Concept of MAT and Its Integration Into Comprehensive Addiction Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is when medication is used along with counseling and other types of therapy. This has been shown to work really well for opioid addiction.

The Benefits of Combining Medication with Counseling and Behavioral Therapies

When people use medication and also get counseling or therapy, they can learn new ways to cope with stress, repair relationships with family members, and make healthier choices.


In conclusion, medication can play a big part in treating opioid addiction. But everyone is different, so the best treatment can vary from person to person. That’s why it’s so important for people to work with their doctor and other professionals to find the right plan. And while medication can help, support from family, counseling, and other treatments are also really important. Combining these elements allows people to overcome opioid addiction and live healthier, happier lives.

Your Path to Recovery Starts with NuView Treatment Center

At NuView Treatment Center, we understand the heavy toll prescription drug abuse can take on your well-being. Our mission is to guide you on the journey to recovery, helping you break the chains of physical dependence and drug addiction.

We apply trusted disorder treatment methods, supported by National Institutes guidelines, focusing on easing your symptoms and tackling the root cause of substance abuse. Together, we can redefine your path to well-being and empower you to reclaim the life you deserve.

Don’t wait to seek help. Start your journey to recovery with NuView Treatment Center today. Call us at (323) 307-7997 or send us a message from our contact page to schedule your consultation. We’re ready when you are.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Preventing misuse starts with using prescription pain relievers responsibly, following the doctor’s instructions precisely, and never sharing medications. Discussing any history of substance use disorders with your healthcare provider can also help manage the risk.

Treatment of opioid dependence often involves a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and support groups. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone can help to ease withdrawal symptoms and manage opioid cravings. Behavioral therapy can help to change the patient’s approach towards drug use, while support groups provide emotional assistance.

Encourage them to seek help from a healthcare professional. You can also provide support by learning about the disorder, understanding their journey towards recovery, and joining family therapy sessions.

Opioid use disorder is a medical condition, not a crime. However, the possession, use, or distribution of illegal opioids, like heroin, or the misuse of prescription opioids can be illegal.

Naloxone is a medication that can quickly reverse an opioid overdose, making it a life-saving tool in cases of overdose from opioid drugs. It is often administered in emergency situations until medical treatment can be provided.

Yes, opioid use disorders often co-occur with other substance use disorders, including alcohol and other drugs. This is why comprehensive treatment addressing all substances of abuse is crucial.

Therapy plays a significant role in the treatment of opioid use disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients to understand and avoid triggers, manage stress, and deal with relapse. Family therapy can help to heal relationships and build a supportive environment for recovery.

Opioid drugs are often prescribed for chronic pain. However, prolonged use can lead to opioid misuse as patients may start taking higher doses to manage their pain. If you are prescribed opioids for chronic pain, following your doctor’s instructions and discussing any concerns with them is crucial.

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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