Addiction Treatment Medications
Many effective addiction treatment plans require the use of other drugs to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood of relapse.
Many people trying to give up drugs or alcohol relapse because they can’t cope with withdrawal symptoms. Medication can make it easier for recovering addicts to stay sober. Medications that mimic the effects of addictive drugs are often prescribed as part of the inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program.
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 several days to several weeks depending on the drug. Different medications are used to treat different withdrawal symptoms. Some of the drugs that physicians prescribe in detox include:
- Benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed for the sedative effect. The drug is able to reduce anxiety and irritability. Anxiety is a common symptom of withdrawal from many drugs. Doctors are cautious about prescribing benzos because they are addictive.
- Antidepressants. Antidepressants like Zoloft and Prozac can relieve the feelings of depression during the withdrawal process. They are prescribed for short-term use until the brain is able to produce the chemical dopamine effectively on its own. Clonidine. Used to treat alcohol and opiate withdrawals, Clonidine reduces sweating, cramps, muscle aches and anxiety. Clonidine can also stop tremors and seizures.
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Alcohol Addiction Medications
Abusing alcohol on a regular basis for a long time can prolong withdrawal symptoms, lasting anywhere from weeks to months. This phenomenon is called prolonged or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Medications are sometimes used in the detoxification process to help relieve the withdrawals from alcohol. Some of the medications used are:
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol). Naltrexone blocks receptors in the brain that produce alcohol’s pleasurable effects. It also subdues the urge to drink. Naltrexone may cause some nausea or headaches. It may be 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 detox. 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 such as Oxycontin. Opiate and heroin medications ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications are usually provided in tablet form on a daily basis. Addiction medications for 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 some people have become addicted to it in place of heroin and painkillers. 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 because 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. It works for both addictions because alcohol and opiates activate some of the same receptors in the brain.
Medical Detox and Rehab
Some people choose to detox on their own. This is not only harder, but also more dangerous than detoxing with a doctor. Medical detox is the best way to get sober in a safe, comfortable environment. For those addicted to alcohol or benzos, medical detox is a must.
A supervised detox is the first step to treating any type of addiction.
A supervised detox can reduce the risk of health issues. Physicians 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.
Detoxification is often a part of inpatient rehabs. In most cases, inpatient rehab takes 30 to 90 days. The first week consists of closely observed detox. Rehab 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.