It seems like a paradox: Most doctors and scientists agree that the best way to treat opioid addiction is with other opioids. That’s because opioids are so powerful that they change the brain chemistry of the people who use them.
That’s why quitting opioids cold turkey rarely works, and why more and more people are looking to medication-assisted treatment for help. The three approved medications for opioid addiction — methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone — regulate brain chemistry. Each medication interacts with the same receptors as opioids like heroin or oxycodone. But these meds are carefully dosed, so people who take them can function productively.
This video explores the power of opioid addiction at the molecular level — and why fixing the crisis means changing the way we think about treating it.
Chelsey B. Coombs is a social editor for VICE News. Emma Fidel is head writer for short-form video. Gabriel Connelly is an associate producer. Leslie Xia is a graphic designer.
Need help with opioid addiction? Find a treatment center near you or find a doctor in your area who offers medication-assisted treatment.