Methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone are FDA-approved medications that aid in recovery from addiction to opioids, such as prescription pain pills and heroin. The Department of Health and Human Services agrees in stating, “Extensive research shows that each of the three available medications used to treat opiate addiction have superior treatment outcomes to non-medication-based therapies. Increased retention reduces mortality, improves social function, and is associated with decreased drug use and improved quality of life. Thus, these medications help patients achieve ‘recovery’ as it is currently defined.”
These medications act to balance brain chemistry while blocking the perceived benefits of their abuse, including the euphoric high and peaceful calm it can temporarily generate. An addiction treatment plan that includes medication must be directed by a medical doctor to avoid complications that can result in death.
As medications aren’t adequate for long-term recovery from opiate addiction alone, a treatment plan that includes a pharmaceutical approach should also integrate cognitive behavioral therapy and life skills training.
Outpatient methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone treatments are only part of a comprehensive treatment plan that leads to lifelong recovery from addiction to opioids. Specifically, methadone and buprenorphine diminishes powerful cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, while naltrexone blocks the sensations of relaxation and euphoria of the drug, should a relapse occur.