Anti-Opiate Medications


I tried everything, NA, a 28 day program… I was ready to give up. Then I found ARCA.

-ARCA Client

ARCA is licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

How does this work? Medication Overview

  • Opiates damage the brain’s pleasure system, producing the overwhelming cravings of dependence. This chemical imbalance can be corrected with medication.
  • Freed from physical discomforts, you can focus on relapse-prevention counseling and long-term recovery. Best of all, you can undertake this treatment on an outpatient basis.
  • Anti-craving medications can generally be taken along with treatments for mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which often occur in tandem with addiction disorders.
  • The Assisted Recovery program is based on the Pennsylvania Model of Recovery developed by Dr. Joseph Volpicelli at the University of Pennsylvania

Breaking the deadly cycle of opiate dependence

An essential component of the Assisted Recovery science based Pennsylvania Model of Recovery is the utilization of safe, approved and effective medications that have been shown to effectively improve treatment results. Medications utilized by Assisted Recovery are not “cures” in themselves but they do level the playing field so that a person can make the sane, rational decision not to abuse prescription medications.

Currently the anti-opiate medications recommended by Assisted Recovery include: suboxone®, naltrexone,(ReVia®), Vivitrol® which is injectable naltrexone and ondansetron (Zofran ®). Depending upon the individual, other medications may also be recommended. These medications are available with a prescription from a licensed physician.

“Without the assistance from the medications I would have failed once again in my effort to get off of heroin.” -ARCA Client

One of the primary proponents of medication assisted treatment is Dr. Joseph Volpicelli, MD, PhD, of the Institute of Addiction Medicine in Philadelphia. Assisted Recovery worked with Dr. Volpicelli while he was an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to create the treatment protocols that have become known as the Pennsylvania Model of Recovery.

“Management of craving is a new approach to the treatment of addiction, and naltrexone is the best example we have of an anti-craving medication.” – Dr. Alex Stalcup MD

When a person takes an opiate, whether it is a prescribed pain medication or street purchased heroin, this sets off a chemical chain reaction in the brain that results in the release of a group of chemicals, most importantly opioid endorphins. Dr. Volpicelli explains that one of the reasons humans like to use opiates is for the endorphin “high” that results. “When you use, your brain releases these morphine-like compounds called endorphins. This endorphin response creates the pleasure associated with using opiates and the need to continue using them.

As a person continues to use and abuse opiates, the brain is registering this artificial stimulation of the endogenous system by the opiates and makes adjustments. The problem being that a person with a constant high level of endogenous activity over a prolonged period of time, many years, will become mentally ill. The brain however has a self-defense mechanism to counter the over stimulation of the endogenous system. It is called the “Goldilocks” effect. Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The porridge was too hot or papa bear, then the porridge was too cold for mama bear. Finally, it was just right for baby bear. The Goldilocks effect attempts to keep brain chemistry “just right” by adjusting endogenous activity.

“It takes more than will power to defeat addiction” – Dr. David Maselli, PH.D.

The brain slows or even shuts down the normal production and release of endorphins fully anticipating that the person is going to use an opiate and stimulate an endorphin response. The problem is that when a person decides to quit taking opiates, the brain does not immediately respond by restoring normal endorphin activity. It would take years for the brain to recognize that it is no longer being artificially stimulated by the opiates and return to a normal production and release of endorphins. It must be noted that endorphins help human beings to deal with stress, anxiety, self-esteem and importantly pain.

When a person decides to stop using, life does not become “wonderful”. In fact, just the opposite occurs. The first issue is the physical detox from opiates. Most opiate dependent people are terrified of the physical detox, which can last for up to two weeks. While in general detoxing from opiates is not considered “life threatening”, most people during the detox feel like they are going to die. Most addicts will detox numerous times over the course of their addiction.

Even after completing the physical detox, the psychological impact, for example anxiety and depression must be addressed. The opiate abuse over the years has compromised the biochemistry. Stopping the abuse does not repair the biochemical problem, rather it magnifies the problem. Treatment protocols that simply tell an addict to stop using because that is what is best, do not work for the vast majority of people suffering from addiction. The medications create the environment that will allow an opiate dependent individual succeed.

“Assisted Recovery addresses the biological, psychological and social components of the recovery process utilizing safe, approved and effective medications with cognitive behavioral therapy” – Lloyd Vacovsky, Director Assisted Recovery

Contact Assisted Recovery today at
(602) 264-7897