Medical Heroin Tops Methadone for Opiate Addiction Treatment

Posted by | Alcohol and Drug Use, Treatment Programs | July 06, 2015

Methadone has been the standard form of sober living treatment for opioid addiction for over 30 years. It is legally only available from federally-regulated clinics for regular use in order to slowly wean an individual off the opiate addiction. When taken properly, medication-assisted treatment with methadone suppresses opioid withdrawal, blocks the effects of other problem opioids and reduces cravings.

Although methadone is the most common form of opioid substitution therapy, it doesn’t work for 15 percent to 25 percent of patients. For this reason, experts are frequently looking for ways to treat opiate addiction through other means. In 2012, researchers found that diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient in heroin, could be more effective than the use of methadone for opiate addiction treatment.

However, the direct costs of diacetylmorphine are higher. Nonetheless, proponents of diacetylmorphine point out that it leads to less societal costs because with its use, patients stay in treatment longer, which is associated with less crime and greater benefits for the surrounding community. The fact that diacetylmorphine has been proven to be more effective than methadone to treat opiate addiction, it’s being seen as a treatment option for more and more people.

Other forms of treatment options for opiate addiction include:

Naltrexone – This is an opioid blocker that is also used as a way to medically treat opiate addiction. There are some advantages and disadvantages to using Naltrexone. It does not have any addictive properties and there’s no addiction to Naltrexone that develops. However, it has several disadvantages. It does not stop cravings making it difficult to continue to use Naltrexone as a regular treatment method. The use of this treatment drug cannot begin until an individual has stopped using painkillers/heroin for at least two weeks, which is difficult for most addicts to do. Lastly, if an individual relapses while using Naltrexone, there is a high risk of overdose and death.

Suboxone – This synthetic opiate buprenorphine is used to treat heroin addicts during their drug detox and even for some time after detox to facilitate sober living. The drug was approved in 2002 and has many advantages over methadone and Naltrexone. For instance, it suppresses withdrawal symptoms, curbs cravings, and blocks the effects of other opioids in an individual’s system for 24 hours. Sober living rates are much higher (up to 40-60%) with the use of Suboxone than with methadone or Naltrexone. Furthermore, treatment does not require daily participation in a highly regulated program, as with methadone treatment. Lastly, the potential for abusing Suboxone is substantially lower than the other two treatment medications discussed here.

NaloxoneThis is a treatment drug to be used in emergencies and not a long-term treatment drug. It is potentially lifesaving treatment to use on someone who is in the middle of a heroin overdose. When used on someone experiencing an overdose, this medicine temporarily blocks the opiate effects, allowing a person to breathe again long enough for help to arrive. In fact, the drug has been used for decades among paramedics as well as within the drug community, and it has saved thousands of lives.

Fortunately, for opiate addicts there are more and more treatment options coming to light. The demand for an effective treatment of opiate addiction continues to be strong.

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