How Opioid Antagonists Can Treat Opioid Addiction

Opioid receptor antagonists are often used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Commonly used opioid antagonist drugs are naloxone and naltrexone.

Using Opioid Antagonists To Treat Addiction

Opioid antagonist drugs are one of the most powerful tools in the treatment of opioid addiction. They work by blocking one or more of the opioid receptors in the central nervous system.

There are many different types of antagonist medications, but two of the most popular opioid antagonist drugs are naloxone (Suboxone) and naltrexone.

These medicines help people who are addicted to opioids manage withdrawal symptoms or even recover from an opioid overdose.

Here you will find information on:

  • what opioid antagonists are and how they interact with the brain
  • how opioid antagonists are used to treat opioid addiction
  • treatment services for substance use disorder

How Opioid Antagonists Work

The human body has a system of receptors that interact with naturally produced opioid compounds. When a person uses prescription opioids or heroin, they activate these receptors and change their mood and the way the body processes pain.

An opioid antagonist reverses the effects of opioids by blocking the receptors responsible for the feelings of happiness and well-being.

The categories that characterize how opioid drugs interact with receptors include:

  • Full agonists attach to opioid receptors and produce a strong effect. Substances such as fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, and morphine fall into this category.
  • Partial agonists have a similar effect as full agonists but lose effectiveness the higher the dosage. Opioid drugs such as tramadol and buprenorphine are partial agonists.
  • Antagonists bind to opioid receptors and block the euphoric effect of opioids.
  • Mixed agonists react to opioids differently, depending on the type of receptor.

How Do Opioid Antagonists Help Treat Opioid Addiction?

When someone has prescription opioids or illicit opioids such as heroin in their system, an opioid antagonist will negate most if not all of the opioids’ effects on the brain barrier.

There are two common opioid antagonist medications in the treatment of addiction:

  • naloxone (Suboxone) — a prescription medication used to treat addiction and opioid overdose
  • naltrexone (Vivitrol) — a drug used to treat opioid addiction that blocks the euphoric or analgesic effects of opioids, particularly if a person relapses

Opioid antagonist drugs will only take effect when someone already has heroin or other types of opioid substances in their system. If a person uses an antagonist without opioids in their body, they will typically experience no effect.

Side Effects Of Opioid Dependence

Opioids are often prescribed to treat severe pain in people who are postoperative or have chronic pain conditions. While they provide powerful analgesia, they can be potentially harmful or fatal when misused.

Some of the risks and side effects of opioid misuse include:

  • opioid-induced constipation
  • sedation
  • respiratory depression
  • nausea and vomiting

It’s important to seek treatment from healthcare professionals when you’re ready to get help. Stopping opioid use cold turkey could trigger dangerous opioid withdrawal symptoms and other adverse effects.

Treatment Options For Substance Abuse

If you or someone you care about is addicted to prescription medications or illicit drugs, there are several treatment services available at a drug rehab facility.

Treatment options include:

Evidence-based addiction treatment, including the use of opioid antagonists, can help you reach long-term recovery.

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