Sunday, July 17, 2016

Which Medications Are the Most Effective for Opiate Addiction Treatment?

There are three different medications available for opiate addiction treatment, and depending on your specific situation, one may be a more effective option for you than the others. It is always important to consider your needs as well as the severity of your condition and to consult a doctor before choosing any one type of opiate addiction medication.


Medications for Opiate Rehab and Their Effects

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most effective program for opiate addiction treatment utilizes one of three medications and behavioral therapies.

This provides patients with a well-rounded rehab program that minimizes withdrawal symptoms and cravings while also teaching better life and coping skills. The three medications approved by the FDA to treat opiate addiction include:

  • Methadone: An opioid agonist, methadone is an intensive pharmacological option that reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms as well as reestablishes normal brain functions. The drug is also an opioid itself, which means, if used in high doses, it can cause the same addictive effects that other opioids cause. This is why one can only receive methadone at a licensed clinic.
  • Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. While it causes very similar effects in treatment that methadone causes, it has a ceiling effect that keeps it from being as dangerous when abused in high doses. In addition, it is usually marketed with naloxone, which precipitates withdrawal in anyone who abuses it. As such, buprenorphine is available at doctor’s offices instead of clinics.
  • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. It can only be taken after a person has gone through detox, and it causes withdrawal in anyone dependent on opioids. It also blocks the effects of any opiate abuse.
In general, naltrexone is considered the least effective of the three because patient tolerance for the drug is so low (Harvard Medical School). However, any one of the drugs’ effectiveness is based mostly on the patient who receives it and whether or not it caters to their needs.

Which Medication is Best for Me?

Depending on your situation, one medication will likely be better for you than the others. Naltrexone is often best suited for individuals who are highly motivated to stop abusing opiates, but those who are still struggling with dependence should consider a different option. Most individuals are best off starting methadone or buprenorphine maintenance.


If you have a mild dependence on opiates and your withdrawal symptoms are not too severe, buprenorphine could be very beneficial for your needs. You could receive your medication from a doctor instead of a highly regulated clinic, and treatment would not be as intensive.

However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states, “Because buprenorphine is unlikely to be as effective as more optimal-dose methadone, it may not be the treatment of choice for patients with high levels physical dependency.” In this case, methadone will likely be a better fit for you.

Treating Opiate Addiction with Medications

Opiate addiction treatment often involves the use of medications, and this choice can make your entire rehab program much smoother and easier for you to navigate. However, it is very important that you choose the right medication for your needs in order to reap its full benefits.