Fentanyl addiction tricky to treat even with medication expert says

These fake oxycodone pills were designed to look like prescription pills. But they contain fentanyl and acetaminophen. The pills were photographed at the Hamilton County Coroner's Crime Lab in Blue Ash.
  • Fentanyl stays in opioid receptors in the brain longer than other opioids.
  • If a patient is given one of the best medications for fentanyl use disorder, they can experience severe withdrawal.
  • Withdrawal symptoms can chase patients back to use, interrupting recovery, risking their lives.

Doctors and other medical caregivers have been urged for years to get certified to prescribe a medication to patients with opioid use disorder to treat the addiction and reduce overdose deaths.

The medication is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved buprenorphine, commonly known by a brand, Suboxone. Taken as prescribed, it's among the most effective ways to treat patients and protect them from overdose.

Ideally, patients can start buprenorphine without experiencing severe withdrawal. If they used heroin or other opioids, they might have to wait 12 hours to a couple of days after their last use before taking the medication.

But with fentanyl, the wait is far longer. And if buprenorphine is started too soon, it can throw a patient into severe withdrawal – and back to fentanyl use.

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