Lofexidine is a medication that is commonly prescribed to patients undergoing a detox from opiate drugs. Unlike other opioid replacement drugs such as methadone though, Lofexidine is not an opioid drug itself. It works by relieving the symptoms of withdrawal but does not eradicate these completely.
As the symptoms of opiate withdrawal can often be quite severe, Lofexidine is typically prescribed to help ease any discomfort and to make you feel less ill.
What Addictions Is Lofexidine Used to Treat?
- Heroin addiction
- Methadone addiction
- Opiate addiction
Medications for Abuse and Addiction
Substance abuse and addiction are commonly treated by using a programme of detoxification followed by rehabilitation. However, within these treatment programmes there is scope for certain medications to be used to help with withdrawal symptoms or in the prevention of a relapse.
Even so, the medication may not be appropriate for every person going through withdrawal; it will usually depend on the type of addiction being treated as well as the individual’s medical history.
If you are to be treated with medication during a detox programme, it is likely that the goal will be to help suppress or relieve the symptoms of withdrawal. Some medications are classed as replacement drugs that will be administered in tapering doses over a period of days as you withdraw from the substance to which you were addicted.
You may also be prescribed certain medications that can help to reduce cravings and to restore normal brain function.
How to Choose the Right Medication
Choosing the right medication to treat your addiction will be a matter for you and your medical team to discuss. Your doctor will need to determine whether medication is appropriate for your situation and will consider many factors such as your age, type of substance you have been abusing, and whether you have any co-occurring disorders or underlying medical conditions.
What is Lofexidine
Lofexidine is a medication usually used in the treatment of opioid withdrawal, although its original purpose was in the treatment of high blood pressure. Additionally, it is sometimes used to treat hot flushes in post-menopausal women. There have also been studies into the use and efficacy of Lofexidine in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, but so far there has been no concrete evidence to suggest that this is effective.
Brand Names for Lofexidine
History of Lofexidine
Lofexidine was first licenced in Germany as an anti-hypertensive drug but due to its subsequent inefficacy, it was withdrawn. However, in 1992, it was re-launched as a drug to help in the treatment of withdrawal from opiate drugs. At this time, it was sold as BritLofex and marketed by Britannia Pharmaceuticals.
Is Lofexidine Addictive?
Lofexidine is not an opiate drug and is considered non-addictive in nature.
What is the Mechanism of Action?
Lofexidine works by stimulating the brain’s alpha-2 receptors. When these receptors are stimulated it can lead to a reduction in noradrenaline, which in turn relieves some of the known symptoms of withdrawal.
How Long Does It Take for Lofexidine to Work?
For most people, the effects of Lofexidine will kick in around two to four hours after it is taken. These effects will then typically last for about eight hours, so it will be necessary to take it two to four times per day. A treatment programme of Lofexidine will usually last for between seven and ten days, but this will be dependent on the prescribing medical professional.
What are the Side Effects of Lofexidine?
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Dry nose
- Slow heart rate
Facts/Statistics on Lofexidine
Studies Done on Lofexidine
A 2004 study on the use of Lofexidine for opioid detox was published in the Psychiatry journal. The aim of the study was to determine if Lofexidine was as effective as clonidine in the treatment of opiate detoxification. Researchers were also seeking to discover if this medication could be safely used with other medications in the treatment and management of withdrawal.
It was found that Lofexidine could be considered a ‘useful addition to the armoury used by addiction physicians in the United States’. It was also found that combining Lofexidine with other medications could result in a quicker and more sustainable withdrawal from opiates.
In 2017, another study was published, this time in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The aim of the study was to determine the effectiveness of buprenorphine/naloxone versus methadone and Lofexidine in the treatment of opiate detoxification.
A group of eighty participants with an opiate dependency were given either methadone with Lofexidine or a combination of buprenorphine with naloxone. Although there were no overall differences in urine screenings and dropouts during the study, it was found that the symptoms subsided more slowly in the group taking buprenorphine/naloxone while cravings were also higher for this group.