For many, medication-assisted treatment is critical for effective, lasting recovery. Suboxone, Vivitrol and other FDA-approved drugs for addiction treatment are widely used medications shown to be effective in helping people overcome substance dependence.

Opiate-dependent people go into withdrawal if they stop using prescription painkillers or illicit opiates such as heroin, and they can experience cravings long after they’ve stopped using. MAT helps to prevent withdrawal while stopping opiate use. MAT can also help to minimize cravings.


Suboxone is the brand name for a compound prescription drug that is made specifically to treat opioid addiction.1 It comes in the form of a soluble film that dissolves under the tongue.

Suboxone is an FDA-approved medication containing naloxone and buprenorphine, which is a partial opioid agonist. The buprenorphine in Suboxone reduces opioid cravings. Naloxone is included to deter abuse by preventing pleasurable effects if Suboxone were taken otherwise than as prescribed. The combination was specifically designed to prevent the misuse of buprenorphine.


Vivitrol is a prescription medication that is administered by injection to prevent relapse into opioid dependence after detox. It works by blocking the effects of opioids, such as heroin or opioid pain medicines, which removes the motivation to use.2

To be effective, Vivitrol or Suboxone should be utilized along with other addiction recovery programs, such as counseling.

Why Drugs Are Used to Treat Addiction

Medications such as Suboxone and Vivitrol are used to treat addiction because addiction is a medical condition. Addiction is not a moral flaw, nor is it something that can be resolved through willpower alone.

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that changes how the brain works, and it affects behavior. Addiction involves uncontrollable urges to seek and use opioids, despite the problems that result. Individuals with addiction can’t simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured of their addiction. Most people need ongoing care.

Treatment for the Psychological and Physical Effects of Addiction

Treatment programs include counseling and social support to treat the psychological aspects of addiction. Treatment may also include medication to help address the physical effects of addiction.

Psychological: Counseling focuses on treating the powerful psychological effects of drug dependence. Addiction treatment counselors teach clients effective recovery skills to help prevent relapse. Therapists emphasize personal growth skills, improving lifestyle habits and teaching clients how to cope with triggers, stressors and cravings.

Physical: The limbic region of the brain affects emotions, pleasure and memories. Opiates and opioids trigger the limbic regions to produce euphoria, and they also change the brain’s structure over time. Medication-assisted treatment targets the limbic regions that have been altered by substance use. MAT treats the physical effects of addiction by calming the limbic region, which reduces cravings and urges.

Medication-assisted treatment isn’t right for everyone. Consultation with an addiction specialist is needed to determine if it’s right for you. There are risks for using medication as a treatment option, and much will depend on your medical and substance-use history. Discuss these benefits and risks with a medical professional.