Why are opioids used to treat opioid addiction?
Many family members wonder why doctors use buprenorphine to treat opioid dependence, since it is in the same family as heroin. Some of them ask, “Isn’t this substituting one addiction for another?” But the two medications used to treat opioid dependence—methadone and buprenorphine—are not “just substitution.” Many medical studies since 1965 show that maintenance treatment helps keep patients healthier, keeps them from getting into legal troubles, and reduces the risk of getting diseases and infections that are transferred when needles are shared. Dependence is a developed need to have the opioid receptors in the brain occupied by an opioid. Finding just the right amount of Suboxone to fill the receptors at the right rate is an important part of the induction process.