Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Opioid Use Disorder

Medicines for Opioid Use Disorder

Image of a profile of the human head with the brain highlighted.

Opioid use disorder develops over time and is not a choice or a weakness. It is a brain disease that needs treatment, just like other diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Treatment works!

Medicines to consider as part of your treatment plan

 

Methadone

Buprenorphine

Naltrexone injection

How does it work?

  • Prevents and relieves withdrawal

  • Reduces craving and the high from taking other opioids

  • Prevents and relieves withdrawal

  • Reduces craving and the high from taking other opioids

Blocks the effect of opioid drugs

How do I take it? 

By mouth once daily 

Dissolve under the tongue once daily. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist for other options. 

Injected into the buttocks muscle every month 

Where do I get it? 

Methadone can only be prescribed for opioid use disorder by certified programs (known as Opioid Treatment Programs or OTPs) 

Licensed Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP)

OR

Prescribed by healthcare providers with a DEA waiver (examples: primary care, mental health, addictions treatment) 

Licensed Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP)

OR

Prescribed by healthcare providers (examples: primary care, mental health, addictions treatment) 

What are some of the side effects? 

  • Constipation

  • Upset stomach or vomiting

  • Feeling drowsy or sleepy

  • Lower testosterone

  • Increased risk of overdose when combined with sedatives (including alcohol) or other opioids 

  • Constipation

  • Upset stomach or vomiting

  • Feeling drowsy or sleepy

  • Lower testosterone

  • Increased risk of overdose when combined with sedatives (including alcohol) or other opioids 

  • Change in appetite

  • Back, muscle or joint pain

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • If you miss a dose or stop treatment with naltrexone you may be more vulnerable to a fatal overdose if you take an opioid again 

What side effects should I report to my healthcare provider?

  • Allergic reaction or swelling

  • Chest tightness, heart palpitations or trouble breathing

  • Extreme dizziness, weakness, or sweating

  • Seizures or cold clammy skin

  • Slow or uneven heart beat 

  • Extreme stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea

  • Dark or tea-colored urine

  • Light-colored bowel movements

  • Yellowing of eyes or skin 

  • Allergic reaction or swelling

  • Chest tightness or trouble breathing

  • Anxiety, trouble sleeping, depression or unusual thoughts

  • Dark or tea-colored urine

  • Yellowing of eyes or skin 

While you’re on these medicines

  • Do not drink alcohol or take sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs that slow breathing (such as benzodiazepines)

  • Ask your healthcare provider for naloxone (emergency medicine used to reverse an opioid overdose)

Signs of an overdose (too much medicine)

  • Trouble breathing, slow or shallow breathing

  • Snoring, gurgling or choking sounds

  • Extreme tiredness or heavy nodding

  • Clammy, sweaty skin or bluish or grayish lips, fingernails or skin

Length of treatment and relapses

  • You may take the medicine for days, months, or years—as long as is needed to prevent relapse. Talk to your healthcare provider about your treatment plan

  • A relapse does not mean treatment has failed, it means a change in your treatment plan is needed.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 6/1/2018
Help improve the VHL. Share your opinions! Click here for brief survey

VHL Web Tour Video - Opens in a pop up window

Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library