Several options are available for effectively treating addiction to prescription opioids. These options are drawn from experience and research regarding the treatment of heroin addiction. They include medications, such as methadone and LAAM (levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol), and behavioral counseling approaches.
A useful precursor to long-term treatment of opioid addiction is detoxification. Detoxification in itself is not a treatment for opioid addiction. Rather, its primary objective is to relieve withdrawal symptoms while the patient adjusts to being drug free. To be effective, detoxification must precede long-term treatment that either requires complete abstinence or incorporates a medication, such as methadone, into the treatment plan.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid that blocks the effects of heroin
and other opioids, eliminates withdrawal symptoms, and relieves drug
craving. It has been used successfully for more than 30 years to treat
people addicted to opioids. Other medications include LAAM, an
alternative to methadone that blocks the effects of opioids for up to
72 hours, and naltrexone, an opioid blocker that is often employed for
highly motivated individuals in treatment programs promoting complete
abstinence. Buprenorphine, another effective medication, is awaiting
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for treatment of opioid
addiction. Finally, naloxone, which counteracts the effects of opioids,
is used to treat overdoses.
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