Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

In 2016, the opioid epidemic claimed the lives of more than 64,000 Americans, and the numbers are only rising. In an effort to reduce overdose deaths and help people stay alive long enough to get sober, medication-assisted treatment is being offered to those willing to accept help. Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is the use of FDA approved medications in conjunction with therapy to treat an opioid addiction. There are three main medications that are being used in the medication-assisted treatment of people with opioid addictions: methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.


Methadone is an opioid agonist that reduces the uncomfortable and painful symptoms of withdrawal from opiates while blocking the euphoric high someone feels when they ingest an opioid. It has been used for decades to help people with addictions as well as babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome wean off of opioids. Methadone is available in pill, liquid, and water form. It is taken once a day, often under the supervision of a physician at a methadone clinic that offers counseling to its patients.

Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

Buprenorphine, commonly known by its brand name, Suboxone, is similar to methadone in that it is an opioid agonist. Being opioid agonists, both methadone and buprenorphine activate the opioid receptors in the brain. However, since buprenorphine is only a partial agonist, it activates the opioid receptors in the brain to a lesser extent than methadone does. Another similarity between methadone and buprenorphine is that buprenorphine can minimize the effects of opioid withdrawal. It also blocks the positive feelings associated with being high on an opioid. One key difference between methadone and buprenorphine is that buprenorphine can be prescribed by a physician so that clients can take their medication at home every day without having to go to a clinic.


Naltrexone is another medication that can be prescribed by a physician so that clients can take their medication from their homes. It is an opioid antagonist that is taken daily in a pill form. Being an opioid antagonist, Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and positive effects of opioids without activating the opioid receptors in the brain. Because of this, it cannot be used to ease the effects of opioid withdrawal. Naltrexone can also be taken in the form of a monthly injection, which must be done at a doctor’s office.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with an opioid addiction, talk to a therapist about how medication-assisted treatment can increase your chances of a successful recovery. Rehab After Work offers multiple levels of therapy, including intensive outpatient, general outpatient, and individual counseling, as well as medication-assisted treatment. Contact our intake department today at 610-644-6464 to explore your options for addressing your opioid use disorder.




      Article Written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC