Three types of medication - two of them considered major advances in addiction treatment - may complement the behavioral therapies and support programs that help addicts. They are:
Methadone, which binds to opiate receptors in the brain, mimicking the original addictive drug. The pills prevent withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and limit the effects of other opiates. Maintenance therapy, administered daily in special clinics, is long-term, often for life.
Methadone can be dangerous if not used properly, causing fatal overdoses.
Suboxone, a maintenance therapy, combines two medications. One is buprenorphine, which reduces withdrawal symptoms. The other is naloxone (it binds to opiate receptors and blocks them).