Opioid addiction continues to be one of the leading health crisis of our time. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 46,802 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2018. 
Derived from the opium poppy plant, opioids come in both legal and illegal forms. The most common forms  of the drug are:
- Prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin, used in pain management
- Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, used for severe pain
These drugs, while providing critical health for many people with severe or chronic pain, are highly addictive and can be especially dangerous when combined with alcohol. It would seem strange then that another type of opioid might play a significant role in treating opioid addiction.
Buprenorphine and methadone are both opioids and used in Medication Assisted Treatment (M.A.T.). Research has shown them to be highly effective when administered properly; these forms of the drug assist with withdrawal symptoms while not creating the addictive highs. 
Justin Berk, MD, M.P.H., M.B.A., a resident in the combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Urban Health Program at Johns Hopkins University, writes of buprenorphine, “Buprenorphine has the potential to be a transformative tool in health care practitioners’ fight to reduce deaths from an opioid overdose… It is easy to take, has few adverse side effects, and minimal potential for abuse.” 
Research supports these conclusions. Studies have shown that M.A.T. can significantly decrease deaths among opioid patients. Many public health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), support this approach.
The NIDA website states, “Medication Assisted Treatment save lives—they help to stabilize individuals, allowing treatment of their medical, psychological, and other problems so they can contribute effectively as members of families and of society.” 
Some do express concerns about M.A.T. using buprenorphine. The primary objection is that the drug itself can create an addictive cycle when not administered properly, and patients are not tapered off. 
Overall, the support of M.A.T. and buprenorphine is very high in the mental health and medical community. Justin Berk adds, “In the fight against the opioid epidemic, buprenorphine is as close to a miracle drug as it gets.”
1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, March 10). Overdose Death Rates. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
2. Butanis, B. (2018, April 30). What Are Opioids? Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/opioids/what-are-opioids.html
3. Fighting Fire with Fire: Taking on Opioid Addiction. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2019/08/methadone.php
4. Berk, J. (2019, March 5). To Help Providers Fight The Opioid Epidemic, “X The X Waiver.” Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190301.79453/full/
5. Module 5: Assessing and Addressing Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/training/oud/accessible/
6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Is the use of medications like methadone and buprenorphine simply replacing one addiction with another? Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/use-medications-methadone-buprenorphine
7. Macy, B. (2016, May 28). Addicted to a Treatment for Addiction. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/opinion/sunday/addicted-to-a-treatment-for-addiction.html
About the Authors:
Travis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help. This includes a special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Travis’ website is wtravisstewart.com
Laura J. Stewart, Missouri State University
Laura J. Stewart received her Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Gerontology in 2020 from Missouri State University. She has worked with senior adults in an assisted living environment and as a mental health tech in residential eating disorder treatment. Her interests include eating disorders, gerontology, and organizational psychology.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed and Approved by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 18, 2020
Published May 18, 2020, on AddictionHope.com