Why Is Opiate Addiction Treated with Opiates?

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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Several options are available for effectively treating prescription opioid addiction” as well as illicit opioid abuse. Three of these are medications––buprenorphine, methadone, and naloxone––one of which is an opioid antagonist. The other two, buprenorphine and methadone, are actually a partial opioid agonist and a full agonist respectively. Why are individuals who are already addicted to opiates treated with opiate drugs?

The Use of Opiates in Addiction Treatment

These two drugs are actually extremely beneficial in the treating of opioid addiction in many individuals. While their use must be monitored heavily, doctors can prescribe both of these medications to help treat opioid addicted patients. They cause the same effects as other opioids, but they can be given to patients safely. When used in this way, these drugs can:

  • Lower a person’s potential for further opioid abuse
  • Diminish the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings
  • Be taken on a regular basis so the individual is stabilized
  • Block the effects of other opioid drugs
  • Be taken without causing the euphoric effects caused by most opioid when abused

    Addiction Treated with Opiates

    Using medications such as buprenorphine under the supervision of a doctor is a safe and effective way to eliminate withdrawal symptoms and reduce the chance of relapse.

These drugs are used successfully in many individuals to occupy the part of the brain that abused opioids normally occupy but at lower doses than are taken by addicts. This way, the individual does not feel the intense effects of recovery because their opioid receptors are occupied, and they have a lower chance of relapse.

Aren’t These Medications Addictive?

Unfortunately, these medications can still cause abuse and addiction, unlike naloxone, which is an antagonist and will not cause the same effects the other drugs can. But taking these medications is not the same as trading one addiction for another for several reasons.

  • Taking buprenorphine or methadone under the direction and supervision of a doctor is safe and will not cause the severe effects that taking them in high doses without a doctor’s prescription will.
  • Buprenorphine and methadone are both highly regulated drugs with many laws put into place to protect them from abuse. Methadone is only dispensed by specific clinics that the patient must visit every day, and buprenorphine can only be received from a doctor who is licensed to prescribe and dispense it. Also in the case of buprenorphine, “naloxone is added to decrease the likelihood of diversion and misuse of the combination drug product” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
  • Individuals who take these drugs do not seek them out compulsively to their own detriment if they are taking them correctly and under a doctor’s care; therefore, the medications do not create addictive behavior when taken this way.

Opiate Drug Treatment is Safe and Effective

Individuals who are treated for opioid addiction with either buprenorphine or methadone are able to become more stabilized and avoid the issues associated with recovery that often lead to relapse. This option is actually extremely beneficial for many people and may be used successfully for months or even years without leading to relapse or abuse. If you have more questions about opiates used in addiction treatment, call 800-584-3274.

Methods of Treatment for Opiate Addiction


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