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3 FDA-Approved Medications for Heroin Addiction

doctor prescribing medications for heroin addiction

Overcoming heroin addiction is always a challenge, regardless of how long or how frequently you have used the drug. Over time, researchers have discovered that taking specific medication approved by the FDA can reduce cravings for heroin and make it easier to stay clean. Although these medications can be helpful in heroin addiction treatment, it is important to always take them under the supervision of a trained medical professional. Medication-assisted treatment programs can help you safely begin the road to recovery.

Common Medications for Heroin Addiction

1. Buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist. When taken as directed, it produces effects similar to heroin and other opioids, but the effects are much weaker. In this way, it can be used to reduce withdrawal symptoms and heroin cravings. In addition, buprenorphine is less likely to be misused than other medications, and it is less dangerous for patients in the event of an overdose. Unlike methadone, which must be administered by a licensed substance use disorder clinic, buprenorphine can be prescribed by physicians. It is often combined with naloxone to reduce the potential for misuse even further.

The combination medication is usually administered as a sublingual tablet. The length of time you will need to use buprenorphine will depend on many factors, so treatment plans are typically tailored to the individual. Possible side effects of buprenorphine include fever, irritability, insomnia, muscle aches, muscle cramps, cravings, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Serious or bothersome side effects should be reported to your doctor right away.

2. Methadone

Methadone is an opioid that reduces withdrawal symptoms and cravings in patients who have addictions to heroin. This medication can also block the effects of other opioids. However, unlike heroin and some other opioids, methadone does not produce a high, making it less likely to be abused. Nonetheless, it is important to note that methadone can be addictive for some people, especially if it isn’t used in accordance with your doctor’s instructions. Methadone is available in several different forms, including diskettes, tablets, powders, and liquids. It is typically taken one time each day. In most cases, treatment with methadone will continue for at least 12 months. Possible side effects of methadone use include trouble breathing, fast heartbeat, hallucinations, chest pain, confusion, and hives. Some of these side effects may be serious, so any side effects should be reported immediately.

3. Naltrexone

Naltrexone is different from methadone and buprenorphine in that it does not activate opioid receptors. Instead, it blocks them, which prevents opioids like heroin from being able to produce their typical pleasant effects. Naltrexone is used to reduce heroin cravings and prevent positive reinforcement in the event of a relapse, as you won’t be able to get high. Because it doesn’t produce a high, naltrexone does not have a potential for misuse. It is available in the form of a pill or an injectable. Naltrexone may cause side effects for some patients, including:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

In rare cases, naltrexone may cause liver injury and/or an allergic reaction.

Medications Are Combined with Other Treatment Options

Although the medications above can help you stay clean, they are not the only treatments available for patients with heroin addiction. In fact, research shows that using these medications in combination with other treatment options may improve outcomes considerably. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are available for patients addicted to heroin. In addition to medication, these programs may offer behavioral therapy, counseling, support group meetings, recreation, alternative therapies, and more.

Heroin Treatment at Woodland Recovery Center Mississippi

At Woodland Recovery Center Mississippi, we understand that every patient’s experience with heroin addiction is unique. We tailor all of our treatment programs to meet the needs of each patient who comes to our facility for care. If you trust our team with your treatment, we will review your case carefully to determine which medication, if any, is right for you. To learn more about medication-assisted treatment or our other heroin addiction treatment options, please contact Woodland Recovery Center Mississippi at 662.222.2989 today.