is a complex health condition that often requires long-term treatment and care. The treatment of opioid dependence is important to reduce its health and social consequences and to improve the well-being and social functioning of people affected. The main objectives of treating and rehabilitating persons with opioid dependence are to reduce dependence on illicit drugs; to reduce the morbidity and mortality caused by the use of illicit opioids, or associated with their use, such as infectious diseases; to improve physical and psychological health; to reduce criminal behavior; to facilitate reintegration into the workforce and education system and to improve social functioning. The ultimate achievement of a drug free state is the ideal and ultimate objective but this is unfortunately not feasible for all individuals with opioid dependence, especially in the short term.
Treating addiction to prescription opioids
Several options are available for effectively treating prescription opioid addiction. These options are drawn from research on the treatment of heroin addiction and include medications (e.g., naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine) as well as behavioral counseling approaches.
Naltrexone is an antagonist medication that prevents opioids from activating their receptors. It is used to treat overdose and addiction, although its use for addiction has been limited due to poor adherence and tolerability by patients.
Recently, an injectable, long-acting form of naltrexone (Vivitrol), originally approved for treating alcoholism, has also received FDA approval to treat opioid addiction (i.e., heroin or other opioids). Because its effects last for weeks, Vivitrol is ideal for patients who do not have ready access to healthcare or who struggle with taking their medications regularly. Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist that eliminates withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug cravings by acting on the same brain targets as other opioids like heroin, morphine, and opioid pain medications.
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