Opioid Addiction Treatment
Concerned man looking out window thinking about opioid agonists and antagonists for addiction treatment
By BrightView
Published: March 15, 2023
Updated: February 21, 2024

Opioids like heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycontin can quickly become addictive and cause potentially severe complications. Getting help as soon as possible is essential if you or a loved one has an opioid use disorder. As part of your recovery plan, medication assisted treatment (MAT) can help. These interventions involve taking opioid agonists and antagonists to reduce cravings and prevent relapse.

Several medications are available that can substantially improve recovery outcomes. Exploring which ones may be right for you is an essential first step in treatment. If you’d like to learn more about Suboxone, methadone, and Vivitrol treatment programs, contact BrightView. Our qualified staff is standing by at 888.501.9865 or online to field your questions and help you start the journey toward wellness.

What Is an Opioid Antagonist?

Opioid antagonists block the effects of opioids, including respiratory and nervous system depression, sedation, and unconsciousness. They do this by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. As the antagonist attaches to these sites, opioids cannot take effect.

The implications of this are enormous. Firstly, antagonists can reverse opioid overdose, causing a person near death to regain consciousness and begin breathing regularly. Naloxone, often known as Narcan, has saved countless lives in this way. It can take effect within two minutes after being injected into a vein or administered as a nasal spray.

The second primary use for antagonist medications is in long-term recovery. This medicine can help patients by making any opioids they use ineffective to get high. Opioid antagonists are beneficial after a patient has completed detox since the odds of relapse are higher at this point in treatment.

A few common opioid antagonists include:

  • Narcan, or fast-acting naloxone, known primarily as an overdose-reversal drug
  • Vivitrol, or extended-release naltrexone, for treating either opioid or alcohol dependence
  • Suboxone combines the antagonist naloxone and the opioid partial agonist buprenorphine

Taking these under a provider’s supervision as part of medication assisted treatment can save lives and promote lasting recovery.

What Is an Opioid Agonist?

An opioid agonist, by contrast, mimics the effects of opioids. A person may start taking this medication instead of drugs such as heroin or hydrocodone, as it can help them taper off and overcome dependence. Agonists work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. They block pain receptors, producing feelings of euphoria and relaxation.

From an outside perspective, this might seem counterproductive to recovery from opioid dependence. Many people legitimately question whether such treatment simply means swapping one drug for another. However, when patients use them correctly, these medications can be a game-changer to lasting recovery. They allow individuals to overcome substance use disorders safely and at a manageable pace. In this way, thousands have safely tapered off drug use.

A few examples of medications containing opioid agonists include:

  • Methadone, a full agonist used in a medical setting where a doctor administers doses
  • Sublocade, a buprenorphine-based extended-release medication that patients get once monthly, administered by a healthcare professional
  • Suboxone, mentioned above, combines an agonist with an antagonist and may be prescribed for daily home use

Medication assisted treatment, such as methadone treatment programs and Suboxone treatment programs, can improve recovery outcomes and help individuals live more fulfilling lives.

Learn More About Medication Assisted Treatment at BrightView

If you or someone you care about is living with opioid dependence, contact BrightView. Our medication assisted treatment program utilizes evidence-based strategies to provide the highest care and support to those struggling with substance use disorders. With our knowledgeable and experienced staff, you can rest assured that we will work with you to create an individualized plan tailored to your needs. Call 888.501.9865 or reach out online today to learn more about how we can help you live a healthier, happier life.