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Glossary of Terms

Buprenorphine

A medicine that eases cravings without giving the same feeling of a “high” as other opioid drugs. It can be taken as a daily dose placed under the tongue, as a once-a-month injection, or through thin tubes implanted under the skin, which last six months.

Both methadone and buprenorphine activate tiny parts of nerve cells called opioid receptors to control cravings, and are effective and similar in safety and side effects. They may be used as maintenance treatments (that are very effective), and in some cases are used to taper someone off opioids.

Methadone 

A medicine provided in a clinical setting to treat opioid use disorder, a condition where a person has a strong desire for opioids and cannot control or reduce their use. Methadone helps with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It can be taken as a pill, liquid or wafer. It can also be prescribed by doctors to treat pain.

Naloxone 

A synthetic drug that can be used in an emergency when a patient stops breathing due to an opioid overdose. It can reverse the overdose but is not a form of addiction treatment.  

Naltrexone 

A very different medicine from buprenorphine and methadone, and doesn’t turn on the opioid receptors. Instead, naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids. A patient’s body must be completely free of all opioids before beginning this medicine. It can be taken by mouth or as a once-a-month injection.  

Opioids

A type of drug found in both prescription pain medicine and “street drugs” such as heroin. Though prescription opioids can be used legally under a doctor’s order to help with pain, they may be addictive and cause side effects and even death when used improperly.