Opioid use disorder (OUD), sometimes called opioid addiction, is a chronic health condition. OUD is defined as a problematic pattern of opioid (such as fentanyl, heroin and Oxycontin) use that leads to serious impairment or distress.
OUD can consist of the following:
Someone with OUD cannot reduce or stop using opioids, even when they want to or when their opioid use interferes with daily life.
OUD is treatable with medication. The benefits of medication for opioid use disorder include:
Listen to these New Yorkers’ stories of how treatment helped them move on from opioid use disorder.
Currently, there are three types of medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid use disorder:
Buprenorphine and methadone are the gold standard for treatment. There are decades of evidence proving their effectiveness. Buprenorphine and methadone treatment are associated with improved social wellbeing and functioning, and reduced rates of drug use and death.
A health care provider must prescribe medications for opioid use disorder. Patients may use these medications for several months, years or for life. Patients may combine medication use with counseling or supportive care.
Buprenorphine is a medication that treats opioid use disorder. It can be taken orally or by injection. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist. This means that it activates the opioid receptors in the brain, but less strongly than full opioid agonists like fentanyl or heroin. Suboxone and Zubsolv are common brand names.
There are several ways for New Yorkers to find a health care provider who offers buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder:
Methadone is a full opioid agonist and activates the opioid receptors in the brain. It is taken orally, usually as a liquid. Patients usually take it daily at opioid treatment programs.
Methadone can only be accessed in registered opioid treatment programs, formerly known as methadone clinics. Opioid treatment programs typically only dispense methadone, though some also offer buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone. Opioid treatment programs are the only setting within which methadone can be legally prescribed. Generally, patients must visit an opioid treatment program almost daily to take medication under staff supervision. In some cases patients may take medication home.
Opioid treatment programs must also provide counseling and other behavioral care services.
Currently there are over 70 opioid treatment programs in NYC. Some opioid treatment programs across New York State offer delivery service for methadone. Contact the program to see if it offers delivery service and if you are eligible.
Extended-Release Injectable Naltrexone
Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids. Vivitrol is the brand name of the extended-release (XR) injectable formulation used to treat opioid use disorder.
Loss of Tolerance After Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
When a person has been opioid-free for a while, their tolerance for opioids is lower. Lower tolerance increases the risk of overdose. People who have recently gone through treatment with XR injectable naltrexone, incarceration or hospitalization are at high risk.
Even a small amount of opioids can cause an overdose. The presence of fentanyl in the illicit drug supply means that exposure to opioids might occur even when using non-opioid drugs.
Follow these tips to take medications safely: