For the millions of Americans struggling with opioid addiction, breaking the habit can be physically and psychologically demanding.
Those who quit abruptly can experience violent withdrawal symptoms for up to 10 days, and once those subside, they still have to cope with anxiety and intense cravings. Relapse is common.
Scott Lukas, director of the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., has spent much of his career researching and developing drugs to treat opioid addiction. Many of the drugs on the market are opioids themselves, but are formulated to deter abuse, while minimizing withdrawal symptoms.
In the video above, Lukas explains the history and science of these opioid treatment medications.
The stakes could not be higher for those addicted to opioids. More than 30,000 Americans died in 2015 from illicit drugs like heroin or prescription drugs such as OxyContin and fentanyl. The epidemic has surpassed the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in terms of yearly death toll.