Addiction Treatment Medications
Many effective addiction treatment plans require the use of other drugs to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood of relapse.
How Medications Help with Addiction Treatment
Medications can make it easier for recovering addicts to stay sober. Many people trying to quit using drugs or alcohol relapse because they can’t cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Certain medications can mimic the effects of addictive drugs, which relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Medications for addiction treatment may be prescribed as part of an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program. Doctors are able to adjust dosages during the course of treatment to ensure that addicted people have the best chance of achieving sobriety.
Drug Withdrawal and Detoxification
During the initial stages of recovery, the body must rid itself of drugs. This is called the detoxification period. Detoxification can last from several days to several weeks depending on the drug.
Coping with withdrawal symptoms is often the most challenging part of detoxification. During detoxification, former drug users experience many uncomfortable symptoms. Some of these may include:
- Muscle aches
Depending on the addiction, different medications are used to treat the withdrawal symptoms. Some of the drugs that physicians prescribe in detoxification include:
- Benzodiazepines. These drugs help reduce anxiety and irritability. Anxiety is a common symptom of withdrawal from many drugs, including cocaine and opiates like heroin. Benzos have a sedative effect, which helps ease alcohol withdrawals. Doctors are cautious about prescribing Benzos because they are addictive.
- Antidepressants. Without drugs, an addicted person cannot produce natural amounts of the chemical dopamine in their brain. Because they’ve relied on drugs to keep them happy for so long, people in detoxification often experience depression. Antidepressants like Zoloft and Prozac can help relieve these feelings until the brain is able to produce happiness-inducing chemicals on its own again.
- Clonidine. Used to treat alcohol and opiate withdrawals, Clonidine reduces sweating, cramps, muscle aches, and anxiety. Clonidine also stops tremors and seizures.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies depending on past drug use. Those who were taking drugs in high doses for an extended time will have the worst symptoms.
Detoxifying from alcohol or benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax can be deadly. Therefore, the abuser should never quit “cold turkey.” Withdrawals from other drugs aren’t always life-threatening, but complications can still arise. Medical help ensures safety and success in detox.
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Alcohol Addiction Medications
Abusing alcohol on a regular basis for a long period of time can prolong withdrawal symptoms, lasting anywhere from weeks to months. This phenomenon is called prolonged or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
Maintenance therapy can relieve PAWS and may also curb cravings or make the user unable to stomach alcohol. These medications usually come as a tablet that patients take each day.
Medications for alcohol addiction include:
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol). Naltrexone blocks receptors in the brain that produce alcohol’s pleasurable effects. It subdues the urge to drink. If a person drinks alcohol, Naltrexone may cause some nausea or headaches. It is given via injection every four weeks.
- Acamprosate (Campral). This medication relieves emotional and physical distress caused by alcohol addiction. Recovering alcoholics can start taking Acamprosate after completing detoxification. Acamprosate reduces the urge to drink by preventing negative feelings like anxiety and depression.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse). Disulfiram was the first medication approved for alcoholism. If a person taking Disulfiram drinks, the medication causes side effects such as nausea and vomiting. The idea is that those taking Disulfiram won’t drink if it makes them sick.
Heroin and Opiate Addiction Medications
Opiates include heroin, morphine, and narcotic painkillers like Oxycontin. Opiate and heroin medications ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications are usually provided in tablet form on a daily basis.
Some people experience withdrawal symptoms from heroin and opiate for as little as a week. Others may have long-term withdrawal symptoms. Long-term replacement medications can stop cravings and PAWS. Former users can typically take medications for as long as necessary.
Prescribed medications for addictions to heroin and painkillers include:
- Methadone. Methadone is an opiate used for moderate to severe opiate addictions. It helps suppress cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Methadone is used with caution because of its addictive qualities. Methadone clinics dispense the drug on a daily basis to prevent abuse. Learn more about methadone.
- Buprenorphine (Suboxone). Buprenorphine works in the same manner as methadone but is less closely regulated. The addiction potential is lower. Buprenorphine users can often take the drug home with them instead of going to a clinic every day to get it.
- Naltrexone. Naltrexone works the same way for opiate addiction as it does for alcohol addiction. It stops the urge to use. The effects of Naltrexone are the same in treating both alcohol and opiate addictions.
Medical Detox and Rehab
Some people choose to detoxify on their own. This is not only harder, but also more dangerous than detoxifying with a doctor. Medical detoxification is the best way to get sober in a safe, comfortable environment. For those addicted to alcohol or Benzos, medical detoxification is a must.
A supervised detoxification is the first step to treating any type of addiction. It can alleviate health issues. Physicians are able to track the patient’s heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, and fluid levels. Physicians help relieve any discomfort the patient may be feeling. They also adjust any medication doses according to the patient’s needs and make long-term plans for medication.
Those with separate health issues should also seek medical detoxification. Withdrawals can complicate these health and detoxification under the supervision of a doctor can prevent any issues.
Detoxification is often a part of inpatient rehabilitation facilities. In most cases, inpatient rehabilitation takes between 30 to 90 days. The first week consists of closely observed detoxification. Rehabilitation includes other treatments, such as behavioral therapy, to make recovery more successful.
If you or a loved one needs help getting sober, find a rehab with medical detox now.