Treatment and Prevention of Opioid Use Disorder: Challenges and Opportunities

Annu Rev Public Health. 2018 Apr 1;39:525-541. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040617-013526. Epub 2017 Dec 22.


Treatment for opioid use disorder in the United States evolved in response to changing federal policy and advances in science. Inpatient care began in 1935 with the US Public Health Service Hospitals in Lexington, Kentucky, and Fort Worth, Texas. Outpatient clinics emerged in the 1960s to provide aftercare. Research advances led to opioid agonist and opioid antagonist therapies. When patients complete opioid withdrawal, return to use is often rapid and frequently deadly. US and international authorities recommend opioid agonist therapy (i.e., methadone or buprenorphine). Opioid antagonist therapy (i.e., extended-release naltrexone) may also inhibit return to use. Prevention efforts emphasize public and prescriber education, use of prescription drug monitoring programs, and safe medication disposal options. Overdose education and naloxone distribution promote access to rescue medication and reduce opioid overdose fatalities. Opioid use disorder prevention and treatment must embrace evidence-based care and integrate with physical and mental health care.

Keywords: opioid agonist therapy; opioid antagonist therapy; opioid overdose prevention; opioid use disorder; treatment for opioid use disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug and Narcotic Control / methods
  • Health Education / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / methods
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • United States


  • Narcotic Antagonists