There are many parts of a treatment plan for addiction. Due to the chemical changes that come from substance misuse, there are some drugs that can help with chemical balances and recovery.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be a key part of a care model that is made for each patient. The choice of specific addiction treatment will depend on the patient, rehab facility and a doctor’s advice.
Table of Contents
How Medications Help with Addiction Treatment
- Limit symptoms of detox
- Limit drug cravings
- Stop drug use
- Limit the benefits of drug abuse
- Cause adverse side effects when a drug is used
Types of Addiction Medications
Knowing the substances behind the addiction is the key to finding the right drugs for treating addiction. Each drug affects a person’s brain in some way. There are several medications that can be used to treat addictions.
Alcohol Addiction Medications
Alcohol withdrawal can lead to bad side effects. Medical detox may be the safest way to stop drinking if a person has an alcohol dependency. During detox, doctors track a patient’s status and may use a few drugs to ease any symptoms.
Some medicines can help end heavy drinking. They can reduce the good feelings of alcohol use to disrupt the reward response to drinking. This can help stop cravings.
- Acamprosate: Acamprosate helps relieve symptoms of long-lasting alcohol withdrawal. This drug works by calming brain activity during detox. It is very useful in the most severe cases of alcohol withdrawal.
- Disulfiram: Disulfiram makes people feel ill after drinking alcohol. When used with alcohol the drug can cause nausea, headaches and vomiting.
- Gabapentin: Gabapentin treats seizures. Its effects on the brain make it a good choice for treating alcohol withdrawal.
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone blocks the nice feelings of alcohol use. People will likely not want alcohol without its positive effects. The drug also helps with opioid addictions in the same way.
Opioid Addiction Medications
Several drugs help treat opioid addiction. Some drugs prevent a person from feeling good when they use opioids, while others can help a person taper off opioids. During opioid detox, doctors might prescribe medicine to treat withdrawal symptoms.
- Methadone: Methadone targets the same receptors in the brain as other opioids, but with less intense effects. This can help treat opioid addiction. Its dose can be lowered to wean someone off of an opioid without poor reactions or cravings.
- Buprenorphine: Buprenorphine lasts longer than methadone and is less likely to be addictive since its euphoric effects fade fast. This may make it safer and more effective for treating opioid addiction than the former.
- Sublocade™: Sublocade™ is given as an injection. People go to clinics to get a Sublocade™ each monthly. The drug can help stop cravings and block the euphoric effects of other opioids.
- Narcan (Naloxone): Narcan is a medicine used to revive people who overdosed on opioids. Due to the rise in opioid overdoses, many people carry Narcan with them. EMTs, cops and some doctors keep it with them at all times. Narcan works by blocking opioid receptors, stopping an overdose as it occurs.
- Suboxone: Suboxone treats addiction. However, people can get dependent on the drug, so it must be used with caution.
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone can help treat opioid abuse. It works by stopping the euphoria that comes with taking opioids or opiates. That effect can stop the cravings that come with addiction.
- Vivitrol: Vivitrol is given as an injection. People get a Vivitrol shot once a month.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Medications
Benzodiazepines (benzos) are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. They can also treat cerebral palsy and may be used to relax a person before surgery. Because of their relaxing side effects, people may develop an addiction to benzos.
- Klonopin: Klonopin is used to treat seizures, muscle disorders and anxiety. Because it lasts for a long time, some doctors use low doses as substitution therapy for other benzos. However, it needs to be used carefully since it can also be addictive.
Stimulant Addiction Medications
There are no drugs used just for stimulant addiction. A few drugs are used off-label to manage stimulant addiction and withdrawal. However, scientists are working to create new, effective medications for this use.
- Bupropion: Bupropion is an antidepressant that affects the brain. It can help control symptoms of stimulant withdrawal.
- Modafinil: Modafinil is a mild stimulant used to treat narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. Some clinics use this drug to treat stimulant addiction by reducing cravings for more dangerous stimulants. However, people often misuse modafinil because it gives them energy. It should be used carefully.
Other Medications Used in Addiction Treatment
Some MAT drugs have broad or general uses for treatment. Newer medicines are effective for managing addiction. Experts are still studying many of these types of drugs.
- Baclofen: Baclofen is a muscle relaxant. It is used to treat muscle pain, spasms and seizures. It is used to help relieve alcohol and opioid withdrawal because it acts on the same parts of the brain. However, more clinical trials are needed to prove its ability before it can be widely used.
- Remeron: Remeron is an antidepressant. It is not well understood yet, but it may block certain receptors in the brain. Taking the drug can help ease some symptoms of withdrawal.
- Topiramate: Topiramate is used to treat conditions like epilepsy and migraines. Some clinical trials show that it can also help treat alcohol addiction.
Medications Used to Treat Co-Occurring Disorders
It is common for people with substance use disorders to also have a mental health disorder. When a mental health condition co-occurs with addiction, both must be treated at the same time to reduce the risk of a setback. Doctors may prescribe a drug to help manage symptoms of mental disorders. Some of those drugs are:
Possible Risks and Side Effects of Addiction Treatment Medications
The side effects of taking these drugs are as varied as the drugs are themselves. One of the main risks of MAT is becoming addicted to the treatment drug. MAT drugs can have similar effects as the drugs being managed.
Benefits of Medical Detox and MAT
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