We offer medication assisted therapy with buprenorphine or naltrexone. Supported with behavioral therapy from local clinics.
Buprenorphine is used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help people reduce or quit their use of heroin or other opiates, such as pain relievers like morphine.
Approved for clinical use in October 2002 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), buprenorphine represents the latest advance in medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medications such as buprenorphine, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of opioid dependency. When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine is safe and effective.
Unlike methadone treatment, which must be performed in a highly structured clinic, buprenorphine is the first medication to treat opioid dependency that is permitted to be prescribed or dispensed in physician offices, significantly increasing treatment access.
As with all medications used in MAT, buprenorphine is prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and participation in social support programs.
Buprenorphine offers several benefits to those with opioid dependency and to others for whom treatment in a methadone clinic is not preferred or is less convenient. The FDA has approved the following buprenorphine products:
- Bunavail (buprenorphine and naloxone) buccal film
- Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) film
- Zubsolv (buprenorphine and naloxone) sublingual tablets
- Buprenorphine-containing transmucosal products for opioid dependency
Refer to the product websites for a complete listing of drug interactions, warnings, and precautions.
How Buprenorphine Works
Buprenorphine has unique pharmacological properties that help:
- Lower the potential for misuse
- Diminish the effects of physical dependency to opioids, such as withdrawal symptoms and cravings
- Increase safety in cases of overdose
Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist. This means that, like opioids, it produces effects such as euphoria or respiratory depression. With buprenorphine, however, these effects are weaker than those of full drugs such as heroin and methadone.
Buprenorphine’s opioid effects increase with each dose until at moderate doses they level off, even with further dose increases. This “ceiling effect” lowers the risk of misuse, dependency, and side effects. Also, because of buprenorphine’s long-acting agent, many patients may not have to take it every day.
Side Effects of Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine’s side effects are similar to those of opioids and can include:
- Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Inability to sleep
- Distress and irritability
Buprenorphine Misuse Potential
Because of buprenorphine’s opioid effects, it can be misused, particularly by people who do not have an opioid dependency. Naloxone is added to buprenorphine to decrease the likelihood of diversion and misuse of the combination drug product. When these products are taken as sublingual tablets, buprenorphine’s opioid effects dominate and naloxone blocks opioid withdrawals. If the sublingual tablets are crushed and injected, however, the naloxone effect dominates and can bring on opioid withdrawals.
People should use the following precautions when taking buprenorphine:
- Do not take other medications without first consulting your doctor.
- Do not use illegal drugs, drink alcohol, or take sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs that slow breathing. Mixing large amounts of other medications with buprenorphine can lead to overdose or death.
- Do ensure that a physician monitors any liver-related health issues that you may have.
Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women and Buprenorphine
Limited information exists on the use of buprenorphine in women who are pregnant and have an opioid dependency. But the few case reports available have not demonstrated any significant problems resulting from use of buprenorphine during pregnancy. The FDA classifies buprenorphine products as Pregnancy Category C medications, indicating that the risk of adverse effects has not been ruled out.
Treatment with Buprenorphine
The ideal candidates for opioid dependency treatment with buprenorphine:
- Have been objectively diagnosed with an opioid dependency
- Are willing to follow safety precautions for the treatment
- Have been cleared of any health conflicts with using buprenorphine
- Have reviewed other treatment options before agreeing to buprenorphine treatment
Buprenorphine treatment happens in three phases:
- The Induction Phase is the medically monitored startup of buprenorphine treatment performed in a qualified physician’s office or certified OTP using approved buprenorphine products. The medication is administered when a person with an opioid dependency has abstained from using opioids for 12 to 24 hours and is in the early stages of opioid withdrawal. It is important to note that buprenorphine can bring on acute withdrawal for patents who are not in the early stages of withdrawal and who have other opioids in their bloodstream.
- The Stabilization Phase begins after a patient has discontinued or greatly reduced their misuse of the problem drug, no longer has cravings, and experiences few, if any, side effects. The buprenorphine dose may need to be adjusted during this phase. Because of the long-acting agent of buprenorphine, once patients have been stabilized, they can sometimes switch to alternate-day dosing instead of dosing every day.
- The Maintenance Phase occurs when a patient is doing well on a steady dose of buprenorphine. The length of time of the maintenance phase is tailored to each patient and could be indefinite. Once an individual is stabilized, an alternative approach would be to go into a medically supervised withdrawal, which makes the transition from a physically dependent state smoother. People then can engage in further rehabilitation—with or without MAT—to prevent a possible relapse.
Treatment of opioid dependency with buprenorphine is most effective in combination with counseling services, which can include different forms of behavioral therapy and self-help programs. Learn more about medication and counseling treatment.
Switch from Methadone to Buprenorphine
Patients can possibly switch from methadone to buprenorphine treatment, but because the two medications are so different, patients may not always be satisfied with the results. Studies indicate that buprenorphine is equally as effective as moderate doses of methadone. However, 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 of physical dependency.
A number of factors affect whether buprenorphine is a good choice for someone who is currently receiving methadone. Patients receiving buprenorphine can possibly be switched to methadone. Patients interested in learning more about switching their treatment should discuss this with their doctor.
Naltrexone is a medication used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to treat both opioid and alcohol use disorders.
What Is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorders and alcohol use disorders. It comes in a pill form or as an injectable. The pill form of naltrexone (ReVia, Depade) can be taken at 50 mg once per day. The injectable extended-release form of the drug (Vivitrol) is administered at 380 mg intramuscular once a month. Naltrexone can be prescribed by any health care provider who is licensed to prescribe medications. To reduce the risk of precipitated withdrawal, patients are warned to abstain from illegal opioids and opioid medication for a minimum of 7-10 days before starting naltrexone. If switching from methadone to naltrexone, the patient has to be completely withdrawn from the opioids.
How Naltrexone Works
Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of drugs such as heroin, morphine, and codeine. It works differently in the body than buprenorphine and methadone, which activate opioid receptors in the body that suppress cravings. Naltrexone binds and blocks opioid receptors, and is reported to reduce opioid cravings. There is no abuse and diversion potential with naltrexone.
If a person relapses and uses the problem drug, naltrexone prevents the feeling of getting high. People using naltrexone should not use any other opioids or illicit drugs; drink alcohol; or take sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs.
Patients on naltrexone may have reduced tolerance to opioids and may be unaware of their potential sensitivity to the same, or lower, doses of opioids that they used to take. If patients who are treated with naltrexone relapse after a period of abstinence, it is possible that the dosage of opioid that was previously used may have life-threatening consequences, including respiratory arrest and circulatory collapse.
As with all medications used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), naltrexone is to be prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and participation in social support programs.
Naltrexone for Opioid Use Disorders
Extended-release injectable naltrexone is approved for treatment of people with opioid use disorder. It can be prescribed by any healthcare provider who is licensed to prescribe medications, special training is not required. It is important that medical managed withdrawal (detoxification) from opioids be completed at least 7 to 10 days before extended-release injectable naltrexone is initiated or resumed. Research has shown that naltrexone decreases reactivity to drug-conditioned cues and decreases craving. Patients who have been treated with extended-release injectable naltrexone may have reduced tolerance to opioids and may be unaware of their potential sensitivity to the same, or lower, doses of opioids that they used to take. Extended-release naltrexone should be part of a comprehensive management program that includes psychosocial support.
Naltrexone for Alcohol Dependence
When used as a treatment for alcohol dependency, naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects and feelings of intoxication. This allows people with alcohol addiction to reduce their drinking behaviors enough to remain motivated to stay in treatment and avoid relapses. Naltrexone is not addictive nor does it react adversely with alcohol.
Long-term naltrexone therapy extending beyond three months is considered most effective by researchers, and therapy may also be used indefinitely. Learn more about alcohol use disorders.
Side Effects of Naltrexone
People taking naltrexone may experience side effects, but they should not stop taking the medication. Instead, they should consult their health care provider or substance misuse treatment practitioner to adjust the dose or change the medication. Some side effects include:
- Upset stomach or vomiting
- Sleep problems/tiredness
- Joint or muscle pain
Seek a health care provider right away for:
- Liver injury: Naltrexone may cause liver injury. Seek evaluation if have symptoms and or signs of liver disease.
- Injection site reactions: This may occur from the injectable naltrexone. Seek evaluation for worsening skin reactions.
- Allergic pneumonia: It may cause an allergic pneumonia. Seek evaluation for signs and symptoms of pneumonia.