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What Drugs Are Used to Treat Opioid Addiction?

When considering options, there are different drugs for opioid addiction treatment. Learn about these drugs and how they can help here.

What Is Opioid Addiction?

The last several years have seen marked advancements in the medical treatment of substance use disorders. Targeted drugs for opioid addiction have reached the market and can help with opioid addiction treatment, reduce opioid addiction symptoms, and stop opioid misuse in its tracks.

While drugs for opioid addiction aren’t necessarily a cure, they can be tremendously helpful for people struggling with opioid addiction and dependence.

Opioid addiction refers to the set of symptoms that makes it incredibly hard for people to stop using opioids on their own. Opioid addiction affects both the mind and the body, and extended opioid abuse can have serious long-term effects.

How Opioid Addiction Occurs

Opioids are powerfully addictive chemicals. Even if opioid drugs are taken as prescribed, opioid addiction can occur. The causes of opioid addiction and dependence vary between individuals, but there are a few common signs of opioid addiction.

Opioid Misuse Resulting from Recurring Pain Treatment

The first sign is physical pain. Pain medication addiction affects millions of people each year, as people use these addictive opioids to manage a very real set of symptoms.1

Even if they are following their doctor's recommendations, people may find that they struggle to stop using opioid drugs on their own and may even seek out illicit opioids to compensate. Painkiller addiction can be stopped with appropriate treatment, but you need to seek help if you see the signs.

Opioid Misuse Resulting from Emotional Trauma

The second sign of addiction is emotional pain.2 People often use opioid drugs to cope with the symptoms of mental illness, grief, trauma, or any number of mental health problems.

This can quickly lead to opioid abuse and create a powerful compulsion to use these addictive drugs. Opioids' effect on the brain makes it difficult to stop using on your own and creates powerful cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of Opioid Addiction

The signs of addiction can indicate when opioid treatment is required. Opioid addiction symptoms include:3
  • Multiple failed attempts to stop using opioids on your own
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities outside of substance use
  • Taking more opioids than intended or for longer than intended
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking opioids
  • Cravings for opioids
  • Increasing tolerance, meaning you need to take more opioids to achieve the desired effect
  • Opiates and irritability go hand in hand, and many people experience frustration and anger

You can overcome these opioid addiction symptoms with drugs for opioid addiction treatment, targeted therapies, and the help of opioid addiction physicians.

drugs for opioid addiction

Drugs for Opioid Addiction Treatment

Opioid addiction physicians have several drugs for opioid addiction treatment. Whether you are dealing with illicit opiates, drugs like heroin, or a pain medication addiction, these treatments can provide tremendous relief. They may also help with opiate addiction pain management and the side effects of opioid misuse.

The most common drugs for opioid addiction treatment include:


Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. For people suffering from opioid addiction, taking buprenorphine can reduce or eliminate the side effects of opioid use, including withdrawals, anxiety, and drug cravings. It can provide real opioid pain relief while having less potential for abuse than drugs like oxycodone.


Methadone is a full opiate agonist. Like buprenorphine, it can relieve withdrawal symptoms and help people return to living normally after opioid addiction.


Naltrexone is an opioid blocker. This drug can help reduce cravings and limit the effects of other opioid drugs. When taking naltrexone, opioid drugs cannot produce their full effect, making it an effective tool for relapse prevention.

What Causes Opioid Addiction?

Opioid addiction is caused by brain changes that result from prolonged opioid abuse. Taking drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin, or fentanyl introduces chemicals into the brain that latch onto opioid receptors. This can cause feelings of euphoria and pain relief but can also disrupt the brain's reward network functioning.4

The best option for preventing opioid addiction is never taking opioids in the first place but stopping at the first signs of opioid addiction may help stop it from taking root.

What is the Difference Between Drug Tolerance, Dependence, and Addiction?

Though they are related, there are distinct differences between drug tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Those differences will be detailed below.

Drug Tolerance

Simply put, tolerance refers to needing to take more opioid drugs to achieve the desired effect. Opioid dependence refers to the physical effects of prolonged opioid use, including tolerance and withdrawal.


Addiction refers to the mental component of repeated opioid use and includes cravings, an inability to stop on your own, and the social consequences of opioid misuse.


The American Psychiatric Association used to delineate between opioid dependence and addiction when diagnosing people but has since eliminated the distinction. Instead, addiction and dependence are included under the umbrella term of an "opioid use disorder.”  

drugs for opioid addiction

How is Opioid Addiction Diagnosed?

Clinical professionals diagnose opioid use disorders. They will look at your medical history and ask you several questions about your substance use to reach a diagnosis.

There are several levels of an opioid use disorder, including mild, moderate, and severe, and your answers to their questions will help them inform you about treatment options.

Therapies for Opioid Addiction Treatment

In addition to drugs for opioid addiction, several evidence-based therapies can help in opioid addiction treatment. These include therapies such as:

  • Contingency management
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy
  • 12-Step groups
  • Support groups

While these therapies may not relieve the physical signs of opioid addiction, they can help you learn how to cope with the emotional and mental health triggers that are so often intertwined with addiction.

Further, they can help treat co-occurring disorders and dramatically improve your quality of life.

Getting Help for Opioid Addiction at San Diego Detox

When you’re ready to start treating your opioid addiction, reach out to the team at San Diego Detox to learn more about our extensive suite of addiction services. Our compassionate and trained professionals have years of experience helping people overcome addiction and can help you choose the best addiction treatment for you.

Our experience has shown us that anyone can recover from addiction — but you need to take the first step in your recovery.
Contact our team today, and from the moment you call to the day you are discharged and beyond, we’ll be there to help you in your recovery journey.

Learn More About San Diego Detox

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