Empowering Adolescents: Revolutionizing Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Posted on June 17th, 2023

Empowering Adolescents: Revolutionizing Treatment for Opioid Addiction


Welcome to the Vitality Health and Wellness Services, Inc. where we delve into the crucial topic of adolescent health. Today, we shine a spotlight on Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for adolescents with opioid use disorders. Opioid addiction has become a distressing epidemic, especially among young people, with devastating consequences for both individuals and communities. At Vitality Public Health, we believe that access to effective treatments and developmentally appropriate care is essential to save and improve the lives of our youth.

The Growing Crisis:

Over the past two decades, the United States has witnessed an alarming rise in opioid prescriptions, coinciding with an increase in opioid misuse among adolescents and young adults. The impact of this crisis extends far beyond addiction, with a surge in opioid-related morbidity and mortality. Tragically, fatal opioid overdoses have more than doubled, and countless lives have been lost or irrevocably damaged.

Understanding Opioid Use Disorder:

Opioid use disorder is a chronic condition that rewires the brain's reward center, leading to intense cravings and compulsive substance use. Its effects on an individual's behavior and functioning can range from moderate to severe, often disrupting their personal and academic lives. Remarkably, some adolescents manage to navigate through school and other areas of life despite their struggle with opioid addiction. However, spontaneous remission rates are low, necessitating effective treatment options.

The Power of Medication-Assisted Treatment:

Fortunately, we have three medications—methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine—that are proven to be effective in treating severe opioid use disorder. Methadone, a full opioid agonist, has long been recognized as a successful treatment, but it is limited by federal regulations that prohibit its use in patients under 18 years old. However, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 made it possible for physicians to prescribe buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, after completing specialized training.

Additionally, naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, has shown promise in treating opioid addiction, especially in adolescents and young adults with co-occurring alcohol use disorder. Although rigorous research is still underway to determine its efficacy in adolescents, growing experience and anecdotal reports suggest its potential.

Evidence-Based Research:

Numerous studies have supported the effectiveness of buprenorphine in treating adults with opioid use disorders. For adolescents, two randomized controlled trials have shed light on its therapeutic efficacy. One study demonstrated that adolescents who received buprenorphine treatment were more likely to continue medical care compared to those who received alternative treatments. Another trial concluded that there was no apparent reason to discontinue buprenorphine for adolescents who showed positive progress while on the medication.

Emphasizing Developmentally Appropriate Care:

It is essential to deliver developmentally appropriate treatment to adolescents due to their lower treatment retention rates compared to adults. Unfortunately, confusion, stigma, and limited resources have significantly hindered access to buprenorphine for both adolescents and adults. Alarmingly, a national study found that less than 50% of addiction treatment programs serving adolescents and adults offered medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders.

Transforming Access to Treatment:

At Vitality Health and Wellness Services, we recognize the urgency of transforming the landscape of opioid addiction treatment. We advocate for policies that prioritize access to life-saving medications, debunk stigma surrounding MAT, and promote comprehensive care for adolescents. Every adolescent deserves a chance at recovery and a brighter future.


The battle against opioid addiction among adolescents requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses medication-assisted treatment, substance use disorder counseling, and developmentally appropriate care. Through innovation, education, and advocacy, Vitality Public Health aims to bridge the treatment gap and empower adolescents on their path to sobriety. Together, we can rewrite the narrative of opioid addiction and create a healthier future for our youth.

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