Medication-Assisted Treatment

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    A widespread crisis of addiction to opioids has consumed the United States. The news continually covers stories about drug-related deaths across the country. The epidemic of addiction is primarily fueled by the over-prescription of opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet. The drug itself is in the opiate category, a class of dominant pain relievers derived from opium, which includes heroin and morphine. Opioids are synthetic formulations of the same drug, such as Oxycontin and Norco.

    When people take these medications for legitimate purposes, it doesn’t take long to develop an addiction to them. When access to the medicine runs out, people may turn to illegal means to obtain more. The particularly insidious aspect of opioid and opiate addiction is that users quickly build a tolerance to the drugs, requiring increasingly greater amounts to get the same high they felt in the beginning.

    Helping people beat their addictions to opioid drugs is a matter of life and death. These addictions aren’t just a disruptive issue in a person’s life. Addiction to opioids can often lead to crimes, overdoses, and even death. Conquering opiate addiction can require a different rehabilitation approach as compared to other substances. Medication-assisted treatment usually works better than complete abstinence from opioids. Some of the medications used include:


    Methadone is perhaps the best-known medication for weaning off active opioid addiction. It was initially developed in the 1940s to suppress coughing. It’s true that methadone is itself a synthetic form of opiates.

    However, it is used more effectively in treating opioid addiction because the action is much weaker. It binds to the same receptor cells, satisfying the body’s craving for opioids and preventing withdrawals. Because it attaches to those cells, it also means that using opiates will not produce the “high” that the user seeks.


    Buprenorphine is another synthetic opioid. It was first developed in 2002 and released under the names Suboxone or Subutex. More recently, the FDA has approved other forms of the same drug specifically for use in medication-assisted therapy. It is also available in a monthly injectable form, making compliance easier in more severe addictions.

    Buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist, which means it both blocks opioid cravings and the effects. When people with opioid addictions try to take drugs while using buprenorphine, they won’t obtain the same high that they want.


    Naloxone is another synthetic drug that can be used to block the effects of opioids. It is most popularly used in emergencies to treat overdoses because it fights against the opiate receptors in the brain. When used in this way, it can reverse the effects of an overdose. It is also used in managing addiction with patients who are at a significant risk of overdose.


    Naltrexone helps with alcohol addiction. However, it can also be used in treating opioid dependence by blocking the cravings and desire for the substance. Naltrexone bars the opiate receptors and increases the production of dopamine, making the user need less of a high.


    Studies show that medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is incredibly helpful in helping opioid-addicted patients avoid getting high. It can also be useful in weaning off opioids entirely and does not have to be used long-term.

    A study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine researched the use of MAT in treating addiction. In the study, 653 people received consistent sublingual buprenorphine treatment for two weeks. During the following two weeks, they were tapered off the drug.

    Those who fell back into using opioid pain relievers during the two months after the start of the program received buprenorphine for 12 weeks, followed by four weeks of tapering from the drug.

    After 42 months of the program, 300 participants were interviewed about their substance use. More than 61 percent said they had been drug-free for at least 30 days and 92.5 percent said they were not reliant on any pain-relief substances.


    Abstinence-based treatment programs have long been used to treat substance use disorders for those seeking care for opioid addiction. However, not everyone responds the same way to one single treatment method. Using opioid replacement treatments, including the use of methadone or buprenorphine injections, can be an essential and powerful adjunct to outpatient rehab programs.

    Using medication assistance in recovery must be used on the right candidates. Not everyone is a good choice for this type of step-down approach to healing. Some important criteria for consideration in using MAT include the following:

    • Are fully detoxed from and not dependent on other non-opioid substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepine medications, such as Xanax or Klonopin.

    • Are fully detoxed from and not dependent on other non-opioid substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepine medications, such as Xanax or Klonopin.

    • Can participate in an initial intake session, which usually lasts approximately three days.

    • Mood instability issues have been treated successfully, and the individual has no thoughts of suicide.

    • Understand and agree to the program’s requirements of no other drug use.

    • Reside in Florida or close enough to commute to the treatment center.

    • Complete forms consenting to treatment and an opioid replacement therapy participation contract.

    Opioid addiction is a grave matter. It can be challenging to get clean and stay clean. In many cases, it needs to be treated differently than other addictions such as alcohol. Using medication-assisted therapy can be a very effective way to step down from active addiction, especially when combined with supportive psychotherapy and 12-step meetings.

    If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid use or addiction, know that there is hope for the future. If you would like to learn more about these programs, including monthly buprenorphine injections, call the specialists at our treatment center today. Help is closer than you think and more attainable than you might have imagined. A healthy, sober future is within your reach.