A long term opiate blocker can help people in recovery stay sober while they work to restore their lives. But how safe are opiate blockers in the long-term?
Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, has been shown to be very effective for treating opioid addiction. But according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fewer than half of all privately funded treatment programs offer it, and only a third of those involved in these programs receive it. MAT involves taking a long term opiate blocker to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms and block the euphoric effects of opioids. MAT also involves behavioral therapy, which is essential for helping addicted individuals address the issues that led to the addiction and develop the skills they need to stay sober for the long-term.
According to research, medication-assisted treatment:
- Decreases opioid-related overdose deaths.
- Reduces criminal activity.
- Reduces the transmission of infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
- Increases social functioning.
- Increases retention in treatment.
Medications Used in MAT
The three most common long term opiate blocker medications used for opiate addiction are buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone.
Methadone has been prescribed for decades to people dependent on heroin or prescription painkillers. Methadone blocks the euphoric effects of opioids like heroin and painkillers and prevents the onset of withdrawal. Since methadone has a high potential for abuse, it can only be dispensed through a clinic, which requires daily visits.
Methadone side effects include difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, hives, elevated heart rate, and confusion.
Buprenorphine is a safe and effective treatment for opioid addiction. Suboxone is a buprenorphine medication that also contains naloxone, which blocks opioid withdrawal. Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist, which means that like other opioids, it produces effects like euphoria and respiratory depression, but these are weaker than the effects of a full agonist. At higher doses, these effects level off and won’t become more pronounced even if you take more medication than prescribed. This helps reduce the potential for misuse.
Suboxone side effects include nausea, muscle aches, cravings, insomnia, irritability, and fever. Suboxone side effects generally occur with misuse, or taking larger doses than prescribed.
Naltrexone (Vivitrol, ReVia)
Naltrexone blocks the euphoric effects of opioids by binding to and blocking opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings so that people taking it can focus on recovery.
Naltrexone side effects include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, anxiety, body aches, and sleep problems.
Effects of Long Term Opiate Blocker Use
Medication-assisted treatment can be used for the short-term or long-term to ward off cravings and withdrawal while individuals develop the skills they need to cope with triggers like cravings and stress, which promotes long-term abstinence. Some people engage with MAT for a few months, while others may use it for several years. In some cases, individuals may take medication for the rest of their lives.
Long term opiate blocker use can have negative effects on your health.
Long term side effects of methadone include impaired judgment and heart problems.
Long term side effects of Suboxone include persistent drowsiness, confusion, gastrointestinal problems like constipation, and a decreased tolerance for pain. Increased depression, anxiety, and difficulty in social situations are other long term side effects of Suboxone.
Long term side effects of naltrexone include tiredness, sleep problems, a decreased sex drive, and mood changes.
Should You Engage in Medication Assisted Treatment?
For many people with an opiate addiction, MAT is the best way to recover from an addiction to heroin or prescription painkillers. Therapy is always a part of MAT, which is ineffective on its own. When used properly, a short term or long term opiate blocker improves lives and increases the chances of successful long term recovery. To help you decide if MAT is right for you, talk to your physican, high quality treatment program, or addiction specialist, who can help you make the right choice for your unique needs.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.