Medications to Treat Addictions

Medications to Treat Addictions

Only within the last 10 or 15 years has addiction treatment had so much global research going into the subject matter. With it have emerged newer methods to treat drug and alcohol abuse. These range from cognitive behavioral therapy, skills training, art and writing therapy and integrated therapy for co-occurring disorders to name a few. Although there is still no such thing as a “magic cure”, these approaches have been shown to increase the positive outcomes in addiction treatment as a whole.

New medications to treat an addiction have also been significantly improved leading to lesser withdrawal symptoms and a decrease in the development of the abuse of another drug. Although not a new form of treatment, medications to treat addiction have both potential and a controversy. In fact a large number of people who do not agree with medications are those who have experienced an addiction themselves.  Some feel that a person is not sober if they’re using “drugs to get off drugs”. Others fear that too many medical professionals will continue to prescribe these medications even after they’re no longer necessary, leading to further abuse.  On the other hand, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous formally support the use of prescriptions when necessary. Likewise, many doctors and psychologists firmly stand by the use of medications, especially when underlying psychological disorders are involved.

It’s not uncommon for rehabs to use a variety of prescription medications to aid in the initial detoxification and withdrawal symptoms. Anti-seizure medication or one which induces sleep can be vital to treatment, especially when a person is at a high risk for serious life threatening withdrawals.

Many people have a lot of questions about rehab all together. The use of medications in addiction treatment is often part of these questions. To better understand how medications are used during rehab and recovery, we will explain the most common, effective prescriptions. Keep in mind a center may or may not use medications to treat an addiction. If you’re not sure, please make sure you ask the center about its protocols.

Medications for Opioids and Opiates

Methadone (Dolophine®, Methadose®), buprenorphine (Suboxone®, Subutex®), and naltrexone (Vivitrol®) may be used to treat an opioid withdrawal. These medications target the same areas as heroin, morphine and prescription painkillers. Buprenorphine and methadone are able to suppress the withdrawal symptoms and alleviate cravings. Whereas, naltrexone blocks the effects of opioids in the brains’ affected receptors sites. Naltrexone is not commonly given to individuals for a detox, but rather prescribed after the initial withdrawal symptoms have subsided.

Alcohol Addictions Medications

Three of most common medications used to treat alcohol addictions include naltrexone, (Acamprosate or Campral®) and Disulfiram (Antabuse®). As with opioid addictions, naltrexone blocks the receptors which are responsible for the rewarding like effects as well as, relieves cravings. In heavy alcohol addictions, it appears to be able to lower the risk of relapse; however, this has not been confirmed.

Acamprosate helps to relieve long lasting withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, dysphoria and restlessness. Disulfiram may be prescribed after rehab as it interferes with the breakdown of alcohol by causing a buildup of acetaldehyde in the body. With the smallest amount of alcohol it can cause blotchy, red skin, nausea, vomiting and irregular heartbeat. The user must be compliant by taking the medication; otherwise, it will not be consistently effective.

Depression and Sadness

Many addictive drugs can cause chemical imbalances in the brain which leads to feelings of sadness, despair and depression. These can intensify during the withdrawal and detoxification leading to a slowed response in treatment as well as, thoughts of self harm. In this case, a rehab or doctor may prescribe antidepressants. Often used for short term durations, these will help to rebalance chemicals in the brain and allow the individual to realize they can get better and live a happy life.

Sleeping Disorders, Anxiety and Seizures

It’s common for a person to have high anxiety and stress as well as, sleeping difficulties during the withdrawal. Moreover, addictions to barbiturates and alcohol can cause life threatening seizures once the use has ceased. Benzodiazepines like Librium, Valium, Serax and Valrelease may be prescribed during a rehab detox to control seizures, induce sleep and decrease anxiety. Most people will discontinue the benzos’ after the detox, but some will require taking the medication for an extended amount of time.

Anti-Nausea Medications

Alcohol and drugs alter the receptors inside the brain, but some also affect various receptors in the stomach and intestines. When a person is going through a withdrawal, these receptors inside the digestive system can also go through a withdrawal. Intense cramping, contractions, pain, nausea and vomiting can be the result. Anti nausea medications may be prescribed to soothe this discomfort and help a person to feel at ease as their body attempts to readjust to sobriety.

Individualized Support is Vital

Not all individuals will require a detox or medications when they seek out treatment. Those that will be taking medications may not need them daily, but rather on an ad hoc basis. Ultimately, all medication addiction treatment is a personal decision. It’s a process which the individual and/or their families will have a significant amount of control over. Part of the rehab process will be discussing the various individualized treatment options. If medication is used, staff will allocate it on a scheduled, or as needed, timetable. Any drug which could have an addictive potential, such as methadone, will be highly monitored. The individual will be weaned off of the drug as their withdrawal symptoms subside.

Serenity Chiang Rai is a private 12 steps based program in Thailand. We treat addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex and co-occurring disorders through a well rounded approach. Using a variety of results proven therapies as well as, alternative treatments, we are able to help a person relieve the desire to use drugs or alcohol.

From the very beginning of a detox process, our team of professional supportive staff will help make the withdrawal process as comfortable as possible. We’ll ensure patients feel safe and secure allowing him or her to focus completely on their recovery. If you’d like to know more about our leading rehab program in Thailand, our treatment philosophy or the therapies we implement, please contact us. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

*Please note: the above article is for information purposes only. At Serenity some of the medications listed above may be used if prescribed by the doctor. Serenity rehab is not a medical facility and does not prescribe or recommend any medication. If medication is required that will be between you and your doctor.