Addiction Treatment

Are Any Opiate Treatment Drugs Actually Safe?

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Medically reviewed: 01/11/2019
Last updated: 09/17/2019
Author: Medical Review

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yes, many opiate treatment drugs are actually safe when used correctly. Although all of them have side effects, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a variety of medications for opiate withdrawal. These drugs are safe when they are administered by a doctor and used properly.


Methadone is one of the oldest medications for opiate detox. Methadone has been safely used for the treatment of opiate addiction since the 1960s.

Not only is methadone considered safe, it is also a maintenance drug. This means it is useful in treating chronic pain in patients that cannot take other medications due to intolerance or addiction.


Buprenorphine is the primary drug used in medication assisted treatment for opiate withdrawal and addiction.

Buprenorphine is considered as safe as methadone and has the added benefit of prescription dispensing whereas methadone does not.  It also has a lower potential for misuse than methadone.


Suboxone is probably the safest of the opiate replacement and maintenance drugs. It is a combination of naloxone and buprenorphine. The buprenorphine binds to the opiate receptor sites and the naloxone stops Suboxone from being misused.

Naloxone is a popular anti-overdose medication. Its presence in Suboxone creates a ceiling effect. This means that once you reach a certain high you cannot get any higher by taking more. You also cannot misuse other opiates while you are on Suboxone because the naloxone will send you into opiate withdrawal.


Unlike other opiate addiction medication Naltrexone does not block withdrawal, instead it reverses the effects of opiates in your system. This essentially means that when you use it and an opiate together the effects of the opiates are completely blocked.

Although Naltrexone medication is very safe, it does not stop you from craving opiates; it just stops you from getting high off them. This leads to a higher rate of relapse.

Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese herbal treatments were in use hundreds of years ago when opium, the first opiate was popular. Traditional Chinese medicine involves a variety of herbal compounds and other methods. The herbal compounds are considered very safe by most medical communities, including ones in the United States.

Although some people do not agree with its philosophies, there are studies that show traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine’s safety in treating opiate withdrawal and dependence. Some treatment facilities have even started using them to supplement their treatment programs.

Finding a Safe Opiate Treatment Drug

Although all of these medications are considered safe, each person’s body chemistry is different. This makes people react to the drugs in different ways. You have to find the opiate treatment drug that works best for you.

It is important to remember that these drugs are the safest and most effective when they are part of an overall treatment program.

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For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

We are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.