Opiate Replacement Drugs – Determining Safe and Effective Medications
The opioid crisis remains a top concern with the latest overdose data coming in from the CDC. In 2016, over 64,000 people overdosed on opioid pain relievers and lost their lives as a result. Fentanyl and similar drugs had the highest number of reported overdoses due to its strength – fentanyl is roughly 50 to 100 times more potent that morphine. Opiate replacement drugs continue to be one of the most effective ways to help individuals overcome an addiction to drugs such as fentanyl.
Recently, a new study conducted by The Lancet revealed that two somewhat different opioid addiction treatment medications were found to have similar results in opioid addiction cases.
What are Opiate Replacement Drugs?
An opioid addiction is one of the hardest substance addictions to deal with because of the way that the drug alters the brain with extended use. A person abusing opiates experiences the majority of the effects in the reward center of the brain. Here, dopamine and serotonin play a role in how we feel euphoria and feelings of reward. Opiates cause the brain to release high quantities of these two feel-good chemicals, resulting in the “high” that people experience.
As the addiction continues, the brain tries to adjust to the presence of opiates in the system by reducing the natural supply of dopamine and serotonin. As the addiction carries on, the supply of these chemicals may be stopped entirely. This results in the person needing opiates in order to have any feelings of happiness and normality. It also causes extreme cravings that can be utterly crippling and often lead to relapse.
Opiate replacement drugs are medications that can act as a replacement to the abused opiates in lesser amounts in order to help the patient with recovery. A person may be weaned of the drug over time or continue to take the medication for years in severe cases.
New Drug for Opiate Addiction
Naltrexone is a relatively new drug for opiate addiction joining other opiate replacement drugs including methadone and buprenorphine. In the study conducted by The Lancet over a three year period, ending in 2017, 570 opioid addicts were given either buprenorphine – a well-known replacement drug – or naltrexone for 24 weeks. Over the course of the three year recovery period that was monitored during this study, the results were very similar.
After six months, the relapse rates in both groups were roughly the same – 52% for naltrexone and 56% for buprenorphine. The results showed that the newer drug naltrexone was as effective at treating an opioid dependence as other proven medications such as buprenorphine. It is thus concluded that naltrexone is a safe and effective way to curb the cycle of opioid addictions.
Differences between Naltrexone and Buprenorphine
While both the medications can help an individual cope with the harshness and difficulty of opioid addiction recovery, they do have some major differences. The differences in the opioid addiction treatment medications lie in when they can be taken. Naltrexone cannot be taken from the moment the patient enters rehab – it can only be given once a detoxification is complete, unlike buprenorphine. While this may deter some people from using it, there is a major advantage to using naltrexone too. Unlike buprenorphine, people cannot abuse naltrexone. The fact that it cannot be abused like buprenorphine can makes it a very attractive drug for treating an opioid addiction.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.