Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

November 22, 2021
Infographic with information on medications for treating opioid use disorder

Medications for opioid overdose, withdrawal and addiction are safe, effective and save lives.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse supports research to develop new medicines and delivery systems to treat opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders, as well as other complications of substance use (including withdrawal and overdose), to help people choose treatments that are right for them.

FDA-approved medications for opioid addiction, overdose and withdrawal work in various ways.

  • Opioid receptor agonist: Medications attach to opioid receptors in the brain to block withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Opioid receptor partial agonist: Medications attach to and partially activate opioid receptors in the brain to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Opioid receptor antagonist: Medications block activity of opioid receptors in the brain to prevent euphoric effects (the high) of opioids and alcohol and help reduce cravings.
  • Adrenergic receptor agonist: A medication that attaches to and activates adrenergic receptors in the brain and helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Four cards show medications prescribed to reduce opioid use and cravings.

  • Methadone is available in daily liquid or tablets. Brand names are Dolophine® and Methadose®. Generics are available.
  • Naltrexone is available in a monthly injection. Brand name is Vivitrol®
  • Buprenorphine is available in daily tablet or monthly injection. Brand name is Sublocade®. Generic tablets are available.
  • Buprenorphine/naloxone is available in daily film that dissolves under the tongue or tablet. Brand names are Zubsolv® and Suboxone®, and generics are available.
  • Lofexidine treats withdrawal symptoms and is a tablet taken as needed. Brand name is Lucemyra®.
  • Naloxone reverses overdose and is available as an emergency nasal spray or injection. Brand names are Narcan® and Kloxxado®, and generics are available.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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