medication for drug addiction

A staggering 20.2 million American adults struggle with a substance use disorder today. To put that figure into perspective, that’s 8% of the total population.

Drug addiction destroys the lives of both users and their families. It’s complicated, confusing, and devastating. And when left untreated, it can be fatal.

With that said, medication for drug addiction can be a part of the recovery process. Keep reading for more of what you need to know about medication for drug addiction.

How Does Medication for Drug Addiction Work?

Both drugs and alcohol can become physically and psychologically addictive. The chemicals in these substances contort how the brain perceives pleasure. Furthermore, once refraining from substance use, the individual can experience withdrawal symptoms.

These withdrawal symptoms can range from mild distress to extreme discomfort. Due to this unpleasant experience, many people strive to avoid withdrawal altogether, or they relapse in the process.

Medications can serve a variety of purposes including:

  • Alleviating withdrawal symptoms
  • Blocking cravings
  • Reversing overdose effects
  • Managing co-occurring mental disorders

Under medical supervision, these medications can provide a safe option for successfully entering a long-term recovery.

Opioid Addiction Medications

The heroin addiction has taken America by the proverbial storm over the past decade. We’re seeing high rates of overdose. We’re also seeing entire communities ravaged by these substances.

Stopping cold-turkey can work for some, but many people benefit from medication to ease withdrawal and manage cravings.


Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. When administered appropriately, it can work to save someone’s life.

Naloxone is available in injectable forms (used by medical professionals). It’s often offered in auto-injectible forms so family members or caregivers can use it. Finally, sold under the name Narcan, it’s sold as a nasal spray.


Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors as an opioid antagonist. it essentially blocks the pleasurable or euphoric effects associated with opioids.

Naltrexone currently can be administered:

  • Intravenously by a physician
  • By being taken orally as a tablet
  • By being implanted under the skin

Serious side effects can occur. Potential naltrexone users should consult their physician about these effects.

Buprenorphine (Suboxone)

Buprenorphine is a partial opioid antagonist commonly known as Suboxone, or Subutex.

Suboxone contains both Buprenorphine and naloxone. It attaches to the receptors just like other opioids and can reduce their effects.

Therefore, Suboxone can essentially help satisfy the intense cravings for heroin. It doesn’t produce the same euphoric effects, which can help reduce the effects of dependence.

That said, as Suboxone is a narcotic, it can still be addictive when misused or abused. It should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor.


For decades, people have used Methadone to alleviate heroin and narcotic pain medication addiction. When taken as prescribed, it can be a safe harm reduction method. Methadone reduces painful symptoms of opiate withdrawal.

Methadone is offered in both pill and liquid forms. However, it can also be abused, as Methadone can become addictive.

When stopping Methadone, people will certainly experience withdrawal.

Alcohol Addiction Medications

The FDA has approved three medications for treating alcohol addiction.


Naltrexone can also block the receptors associated with the rewarding feelings of alcohol use. This can reduce a relapse into heavy drinking.

Acamprosate (Campral)

This medication can reduce the distressing symptoms associated with long-lasting withdrawal. Symptoms can include anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and restlessness.

Disulfiram (Antabuse)

Antabuse interrupts alcohol’s breakdown. Therefore, if the individual chooses to drink, he or she faces unpleasant reactions like nausea, vomiting, and flushed skin. These negative effects can counteract the positive feelings people associate with alcohol intoxication.

Psychiatric Medications

Many people struggle with both substance use and mental health disorders. In fact, people with mood or anxiety disorders are twice as likely to struggle with drug addiction.

Early sobriety can increase feelings associated with depression or anxiety. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to manage mental health symptoms to avoid a relapse. Medication can be a part of that treatment.


Antidepressants work by helping balance the chemicals in the brain that impact mood and emotions.

It can take several weeks for antidepressants to reach their full effect. The change may be subtle at first, but people do start feeling an increase in mood and energy within a few weeks.

Common antidepressant medications include:

  • Effexor
  • Cymbalta
  • Welbutrin
  • Paxil
  • Zoloft
  • Prozac
  • Lexapro

Each medication comes with its own set of side effects. Sometimes people need to try several different medications to find what works for them.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers help improve mood disturbances associated with depression and mania. It can be used for treating Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.

Mood stabilizers help individuals feel more even-keeled and calm in daily living. Common mood stabilizing medications include:

  • Lithium
  • Depakote
  • Topamax
  • Gabapentin
  • Clozapine
  • Risperidone

It should be noted that mood stabilizers also have their own set of side effects. It is imperative that patients discuss any swift changes in mood or personality with their doctor.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety drugs can range between antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines include medications like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan.

In the short-term, these can be very beneficial for managing symptoms of anxiety. However, they can also become habit-forming and problematic for individuals with a history of addiction.

Benzodiazepines slow down the nervous system, which helps people relax both physically and mentally. They work quickly (can bring relief within 20-30 minutes), but they can evoke a sense of physical addiction.

People may feel sleepy, agitated, or uncoordinated on lower doses, which can cause problems in daily functioning. While safe in small doses, they can be deadly when combined with other medications, prescription painkillers, or alcohol.

Final Thoughts

At Coastal Detox, we provide individualized, 24/7 medical detox for clients struggling with substance use disorders.

We employ a variety of holistic and medication for drug addiction options to provide optimal care for you or your loved ones.

Hope and relief are available. Contact us today for more information.