The treatment of addiction requires a comprehensive approach that includes detox and rehabilitation. Included within both detox and rehab programmes, however, is the use of medication where appropriate.
Treatment for addiction is different for everyone and depends on the type of substance being abused, how severe the addiction is, and other factors such as mental and physical health. For some, a combination of medication and behavioural therapies can be the most effective form of treatment.
In the first instance, a medically-assisted detox may be needed. The use of medication at this stage is typically intended to minimise the effects of withdrawal but can also help to reduce cravings, therefore making the detox more effective and easier to sustain.
Once detox has been completed, a programme of rehabilitation can begin, which may also include the use of medication. Certain medications used at this point can help the addicted individual avoid a return to drug or alcohol use and therefore preventing a relapse.
Medications Used in Drug Detox | Addiction Treatment
Methadone is commonly used for the treatment of heroin withdrawals. It can also be used to reduce the symptoms associated with other opiate drug withdrawals. Since methadone is a synthetic opioid that binds to the same brain receptors as drugs like heroin and opiate painkillers, it can help to suppress cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Users do not get the same feelings of euphoria with methadone as they do with other opiate drugs, although there is still the potential for abuse and addiction.
Naltrexone is used for both opiate and alcohol withdrawal. When used for the treatment of opioid addiction, Naltrexone is effective because it blocks the opioid drugs from acting on the brain. It prevents you from getting the same high that you used to from the drug, although it is not effective in dealing with cravings.
Buprenorphine is seen as a better alternative to methadone in the treatment of opioid addiction because there is a much lower potential for abuse and addiction. Moreover, while methadone must be administered by a medical professional, buprenorphine can be prescribed to you and taken home to be administered yourself.
Lofexidine is commonly used in conjunction with a detox programme for the treatment of heroin or opiate addiction. It can help to reduce symptoms of withdrawal and may be used with methadone or naltrexone to accelerate the detoxification process.
Mirtazapine is an antidepressant drug that can be prescribed during a drug detox to help relieve symptoms of anxiety. It has been found to be useful in helping addicted individuals maintain abstinence from substances such as methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, and alcohol.
Although created as a medication to treat high blood pressure, Clonidine is regularly used to treat conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). However, although clonidine was not originally developed as a treatment for opioid addiction, it has proved to be an effective drug in terms of relieving symptoms of withdrawal such as anxiety, cramping, muscle aches, and agitation.
Clonazepam is a member of the benzodiazepine family of drugs and is intended for use in the treatment of conditions such as panic disorder and seizures. Due to its sedative effects, it may be used for treating withdrawal symptoms associated with drug addiction such as anxiety and muscle aches. Nevertheless, because there is such a high potential for abuse with benzodiazepines, Clonazepam is administered with caution when treating addiction.
Chlordiazepoxide is also part of the benzodiazepine family of drugs. Its sedative effects mean it is effective in treating symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal such as anxiety and insomnia. It is an addictive drug that has a high potential for abuse, so it should be used with caution and only for a short period of time.
Bupropion is an antidepressant drug often used to help aid in the cessation of smoking. It has been tested without success for the treatment of cocaine withdrawal, but there is some evidence to suggest that it might prove useful when treating methamphetamine addiction.
Medications Used in Alcohol Detox | Addiction Treatment
Nalmefene is an opioid antagonist and is typically used in the treatment of those with alcohol dependence. It is usually used in the treatment of those suffering from alcohol dependence but without any physical withdrawal symptoms, meaning they are not in immediate need of a detox.
It is used to reduce the pleasurable effects of alcohol and is taken by those who want to reduce their consumption levels. It is designed to be taken an hour or two before the first alcoholic drink so that it reduces the desire to drink more. Although it does not stop cravings for alcohol or prevent you from drinking, it will make it less pleasurable so that you will not want to drink more than one or two. It is best used in conjunction with some form of counselling.
Acamprosate is a medication that is used to help treat alcohol dependence. However, it should be used as part of a comprehensive recovery programme, working best when used in conjunction with behavioural therapy.
Acamprosate can be taken by those who want to reduce their alcohol consumption as it helps curb the desire to drink. Nevertheless, when used in the treatment of alcohol addiction, it works well with a programme of complete abstinence as it can help reduce cravings and thus encourages sobriety maintenance.
Disulfiram is taken by those who want to stay away from alcohol. It is a medication that produces an acute sensitivity to alcohol. This means that those who drink after taking it will experience unpleasant symptoms, similar to those felt during a hangover.
Even a small amount of alcohol after taking disulfiram can lead to symptoms that include a pounding headache, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and confusion. Nonetheless, disulfiram will not prevent cravings for alcohol, so it is important that it is used as part of a rehabilitation programme that includes behavioural counselling.
Although not yet approved for the treatment of either alcoholism or drug addiction, topiramate is regularly used for this purpose. Studies have shown it to be effective in the treatment of alcoholism, with those who took it experiencing fewer days of alcohol consumption.