Opiates are drugs there are derived from the opium poppy plant. There are legal opiates that are used to help alleviate severe pain (i.e. Hydrocodone, Morphine, Codeine…etc.) and illegal opiates (i.e. Heroin). Opiates work by affecting certain neurotransmitters in one’s brain. Therefore, all opiates have highly addictive qualities. Even individuals who are prescribed opiates for legitimate medical purposes have a propensity to develop a tolerance to the medication and in some cases may go on to develop an addiction.

There are several different types of medications that are prescribed to help individuals stop using opiates. It is important to note that simply using medications will not necessarily provide full relief in terms of treatment. An individual who uses medications to help treat opiate abuse or addiction should also seek other mental health support, in the form of a substance abuse counselor, group therapy, and/ or substance abuse support groups. Substance abuse and addiction can be all consuming, affecting every area of one’s life. In treating substance abuse or addiction, it is important to set oneself up for success and obtain as much physical and emotional assistance as is possible. Some of the common medications that are used to help individuals stop abusing opiates include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.


Methadone is a long acting opioid that affects the same area of one’s brain as the abused opiate. Methadone, however, does not result in an individual getting high. It works by slowly easing one’s drug cravings while simultaneously helping to prevent extreme withdrawal discomforts. It does this because it tricks one’s brain into thinking that the abused opiate is still present so it does not crave the drug, but it does not allow the person to experience a high, minimizing his or her need to ingest the abused opiate. If used without the guidance of a medical professional, or abused, methadone can cause an overdose.


Buprenorphine is usually the initial medication prescribed to individuals struggling with opiate abuse. One of the reasons being that there is less of a likelihood of overdose with buprenorphine. It works with the same neurotransmitters as methadone, creating similar effects but not as strongly. Buprenorphine is a shorter acting medication. In some cases buprenorphine is used as a treatment that is combined with naloxone. This medication can be administered in several different methods. Below are some of the ways in which buprenorphine can be ingested:

Shot: known as Buprenex
Tablet: known as Suboxone or Zubsolv
Skin Patch: known as Butrans
Implanted: known as Probuphine, and is placed under one’s skin, lasting approximately six months
Film: placed in one’s mouth against one’s cheek, known as Belcua

A medical professional will help an individual select the appropriate medication for his or her treatment, should they deem buprenorphine the best course of treatment.


Naltrexone is most commonly used as a broad part of one’s recovery treatment program. It works with similar neurotransmitters by blocking opiate receptors in one’s brain. It does not, however, ease drug cravings or withdrawal symptoms. When naltrexone prescribed, it is usually done so as treatment for individuals after they have completed their detox process. Naltrexone can be administered via injection (medication known as Vivitrol) by a medical professional or ingested by mouth (medication known as Revia).

Opiate abuse and addiction can physically alter the way an individual’s brain functions. For this reason it is imperative to seek professional help when attempting to recover from opiate abuse or addiction. Although each person is different, for many individuals struggling with opiate abuse, the best way to overcome an opiate addiction is with long-term maintenance therapy. This should include a combination of the above medications in addition to some form of continued mental health counseling.

Further Information

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please seriously consider getting help as soon as possible. Addiction can be an incredibly damaging disease and the sooner help is received, the better. For further information on substance abuse or addiction, feel free to reach out to us at: or 1-800-210-1216. You are also more than welcome to email us at We are happy to answer any questions and provide any information you may be looking for regarding substance abuse and addiction.



1813 12th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404

Phone: 800.210.1216