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What Does Opioid Replacement Therapy Mean?

Opioids are highly addictive narcotic medications that work in the brain to help relieve pain. These substances bind to the opioid receptors in the brain to depress the central nervous system. Opioids tell your body that you are not really in pain. When taken, they produce a sense of calm, relaxation, and euphoria.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

Opioid use disorder is a chronic lifelong disorder. Opioid use disorder is a problematic pattern of opioid use leading to problems or distress. Like substance use disorder, opioid use disorder has a set list of criteria that define it. If a person has at least two of the eleven criteria in 12 months, they are diagnosed with opioid use disorder as outlined in the DSM-5.

What is Opioid Replacement Therapy?

Recovering from opioid addiction is not easy. Once a person has become addicted to opioids, the chemical changes in their brains make it extremely difficult to just stop taking them. Opioid replacement therapy or medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a treatment option for people that have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder (become dependent on opioids). It replaces dangerous drugs like heroin and other opioids, with legal, less euphoric, and longer-acting opioids. The National Institute of Health talks about medication-assisted treatment and the benefits of using this therapy in fighting opioid addiction:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved medications to treat opioid use disorder are effective and save lives. Long-term retention on medication for OUD is associated with improved outcomes. A lack of availability of behavioral interventions is not a sufficient justification to withhold medications to treat OUD. Methadone, buprenorphine, and extended-release naltrexone are the three medications currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid use disorder (OUD).  All three medications reduce opioid cravings and help to sever the ties between opioid use and established situational or emotional triggers. These medications work by targeting the mu-opioid receptor within the endogenous opioid system, although each has a distinct mechanism of action. Their safety and efficacy profiles differ due to their differing pharmacological, pharmacodynamic, and pharmacokinetic properties. (NIH)

As stated above, there are three medications currently approved by the FDA for opioid replacement therapy: methadone, buprenorphine, and extended-release buprenorphine. These medications help to stabilize a person with opioid use disorder. They help to decrease overdose deaths, criminal behavior, prevent debilitating withdrawal symptoms from opioids, and satisfy opioid cravings to reduce the possibility of relapse.

Does Opioid Replacement Therapy Cure Opioid Addiction?

Once a person decides that opioid replacement therapy is the right treatment for them, they will also have to pursue counseling and therapy. The medication helps curb cravings and prevent withdrawal, but the addiction still has to be treated. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and counseling along with the medication can help people with opioid use disorder sustain recovery. There are people in recovery that will say ORT is replacing one addiction for another, however, recovery is an individualized process. What is right and works for one person may not be the best option for another. Only you know what is right for you. Opioid replacement therapy has saved countless lives from opioid addiction. It helps to break the cycle of abuse. The length of time someone stays on ORT depends on the individual. Some may only need the medication for a short period, and some may require more lengthy treatment. If opioid replacement therapy is right for you, you, your doctor, and your therapist can determine the best treatment plan for you.

Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Evoke Wellness at Cohasset offers evidence-based addiction treatment. Our solution-focused addiction treatment will lead you on a road to long-lasting recovery. You don’t have to suffer any longer, call us today.