How Medications Help with Addiction Treatment
Medication can make it easier for recovering addicts to stay sober. Many people trying to give up drugs or alcohol relapse because they can’t cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Certain medications can mimic the effects of addictive drugs, which relieves withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Medications for addiction treatment may be prescribed as part of an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. Doctors may adjust dosages during the course of treatment to ensure that addicted people have the best chance of achieving sobriety.
Drug Withdrawal and Detox
During the initial stages of recovery, the body must rid itself of drugs. This is called the detox period. Detox can last several days to several weeks depending on the drug. Coping with withdrawal symptoms is often the most challenging part of detox. During detox, former drug users experience many uncomfortable symptoms. Some of these may include:
- Muscle aches
Different medications are used to treat different withdrawal symptoms. Some of the drugs that physicians prescribe in detox include:
- BenzodiazepinesThese drugs 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.
- AntidepressantsWithout drugs, an addicted person cannot produce natural amounts of happiness-inducing chemicals in their brain. Because they’ve relied on drugs to keep them happy for so long, people in detox 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.
- ClonidineUsed to treat alcohol and opiate withdrawals, Clonidine reduces sweating, cramps, muscle aches and anxiety. Clonidine can also stop tremors and seizures.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms varies based on past drug use. Those who were taking drugs in high doses for an extended time have the worst symptoms.
Detoxing from alcohol or benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax can be deadly, so people with these addictions 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. If you are suffering from an addiction, talk to someone who can help now.
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). 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 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.